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U.S. Mars rover Curiosity touches down in Red Planet (2)

(Xinhua)

14:44, August 06, 2012

Traditional Mars space-trucks including Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity were dropped onto a lovely air-bag to cushion their fall, the de facto landing experience for a rover. But Curiosity is huge -- the size of a mini cooper -- so air bags are not its thing. Instead, the rover was lowered onto the Martian surface by a "sky crane".

NASA has dubbed that fall from space "Seven Minutes of Terror" in a video describing the onrushing event.

At nearly a ton, the six-wheeled vehicle dwarfs all previous robots sent to the surface of the planet. It is about twice as long and more than five times as heavy as any previous Mars rover.

During a prime mission lasting one Martian year -- nearly two Earth years -- researchers will use the rover's tools to study whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.

The 2.5-billion-U.S.-dollar Mars Science Laboratory, the formal name of the mission deploying the Curiosity rover, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Nov. 26, 2011.
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