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Science And Nature

On This Day In Space: Aug. 6, 2012: Curiosity Rover Lands on Mars

On Aug. 6, 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover successfully touched down on the Martian surface. 

Amazing Mars Photos by NASA’s Curiosity Rover | Latest Images

Curiosity is NASA’s biggest and most ambitious Mars rover ever launched.

360-degree panorama with the Curiosity rover in the center of the image. The rover is surrounded by rusty red rocks and some large hills.

360-degree panorama with the Curiosity rover in the center of the image. The rover is surrounded by rusty red rocks and some large hills.  (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Its landing involved a new kind of maneuver that had never been tried before using something called a “sky crane.” Like previous rovers that have landed on Mars, Curiosity used a parachute and rocket engines to slow down. 

But while other rovers used airbags to cushion the last part of the fall, Curiosity’s rocket-propelled sky crane hovered over the ground and gently lowered it with cables.  The landing occurred on Aug. 6 Eastern time, but it was still Aug. 5 in California, where NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages Curiosity’s mission, is based. 

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Hanneke Weitering

Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos. 

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