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Curiosity goes to Mars

NASA’s rover looks for life-friendly environments

5:16pm, December 13, 2012


Besieged by budget cuts and diminished by the end of the shuttle era, NASA got a welcome shot in the arm in August as mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., watched their latest interplanetary emissary guide itself to a safe landing on Mars. Curiosity’s arrival on the Red Planet ignited a firestorm of enthusiasm for space sciences, as millions followed the spectacular touchdown online.

The rover’s landing included a hypersonic parachute ride, then an acrobatic sky-crane maneuver involving a retro-rocket-powered descent stage that

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