Entry, Descent, and Landing Configuration
Mars Science Laboratory used a bold, new landing system. The spacecraft's descent into the martian atmosphere was guided by small rockets on its way toward the surface.
Like Viking, Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars Science Laboratory was slowed by a large parachute. As the spacecraft lost speed, rockets fired again, controlling the spacecraft's descent until the rover separated from its final delivery system, the sky crane. Like a large crane on Earth, the sky crane touchdown system lowered the rover to a "soft landing" -wheels down-on the surface of Mars, ready to begin its mission.