In August, a rover named Curiosity touched down inside Mars’ Gale Crater, carrying 10 new instruments that will advance the quest for signs that Mars might once have been suitable for life. But Curiosity’s mission is risky. After parachuting through the Martian atmosphere at twice the speed of sound, Curiosity was gently lowered to the planet’s surface by a “sky crane.” This first-of-its-kind system has been tested on Earth, but there was no guarantee it would work on Mars.
With inside access to the massive team of scientists and engineers responsible for Curiosity’s on-the-ground experiments, NOVA was there for the exhilarating moments after Curiosity’s landing — and is there for the spectacular discoveries to come.
The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is the most complex and scientifically powerful robotic expedition ever sent to another world. Scientists say that Curiosity is as close as we can get to sending a field geologist to Mars. Decoding the history of the red planet could unlock secrets about our own planet.
Watch NOVA: Ultimate Mars Challenge Wednesday, November 14 at 9:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS/WHTJ PBS as part of PBS' Exploration Wednesdays.