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Mars rover's crazy-looking landing plan is technically sound, says NASA (+video)

NASA scientists say that the Mars Curiosity rover's audacious August 5 landing plan, which involves a hypersonic parachute, retrorockets, and a hovering 'sky crane' system is exactly what is needed for the $2.5 billion rover.

This 11-minute animation depicts key events of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, which will launch in late 2011 and land a rover, Curiosity, on Mars in August 2012.
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Many have been fretting about the seemingly implausible, risky landing strategy of the new Mars rover Curiosity set to arrive on the Red Planet next month, but engineers say the worry is overblown.

Curiosity, the Mini Cooper-size centerpiece of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, is due to be lowered onto the Martian surface by a hovering Sky Crane holding it up via tethers. Despite the audacity of the concept, many aerospace engineers say the plan is solid.

"I agree it looks scary, it looks risky, but it's technically sound," said Georgia Institute of Technology professor Bobby Braun, who served as NASA chief technologist from 2010-2011. Braun was not part of the engineering team, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., that designed the Curiosity landing system. "In my view, it's not risky, it's actually the right way to land the system they're trying to land."

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