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• Launch date: 26 November 2012

• Agency: NASA

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The Mars Science Laboratory mission’s Curiosity rover, the most technologically advanced rover ever built, landed in Mars’ Gale Crater the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT) using a series of complicated landing maneuvers never before attempted. The specialized landing sequence, which employed a giant parachute, a jet-controlled descent vehicle and a bungee-like apparatus called a “sky crane,” was devised because tested landing techniques used during previous rover missions could not safely accommodate the much larger and heavier rover.

Curiosity’s mission is to determine whether the Red Planet ever was, or is, habitable to microbial life. The rover, which is about the size of a MINI Cooper, is equipped with 17 cameras and a robotic arm containing a suite of specialized laboratory-like tools and instruments.