How to drive on Mars
First, get there. Next, go through immigration. Then it's a case of passing a Martian driving test
Posted: 30 Oct 2012
They called it the Seven Minutes of Terror. Over 33 million miles from Earth, the capsule carrying the Curiosity rover broke through the thin Mars atmosphere and unfurled a 16-metre-wide supersonic parachute, to slow it from its eight-month journey at a stellar cruising speed of 22,500mph. Four thrusters fired up to slow it even more, transforming the spacecraft into a skycrane that gently lowered its $2.5 billion payload on to the surface of the Red Planet. A touch too fast, and nearly a tonne of rover plus years of hard work would have burst on impact, showering the alien desert with a giant Meccano set for some flubbery creature to discover in the distant future.
Words: Dan Read
This feature first appeared in the October 2012 issue of Top Gear magazine