Getting to Mars - Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror

On their own right, the semi-autonomic rovers that explore the surface of Mars for us are great feats of engineering. The fact that they do what they do (from such a long distance away it's virtually impossible for us to really wrap our heads around) ought to be enough to impress anyone, but have you wondered how it is that they get there in the first place?

As you may recall from memory or a little history, landing on Mars is no easy feat. Its gravity is relatively similar to our own, but its atmosphere is too thin and light, so even if you get the angle of entry right (and that's a huge challenge in its own right), you still have to contest with the fact that you're falling at vertiginous speeds without much to slow you down sufficiently for a smooth touchdown.

So, how do you do it without smashing to smithereens all the equipment you want to use? Once it hits the atmosphere, the rover has an infamous seven minutes of terror to deploy a number of very delicate and specifically programmed functions about which you'll learn in the following pretty dramatic animation:


How would you do it?
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