How to Land Softly on a Hard Planet NASA

Just one of the many problems in landing on another planet, after it’s been determined where to land and the method to get there, is landing safely. For JPL, a safe landing is “the name of the game,” as engineers work to prepare two rovers for the journey to Mars. The Mars Exploration Rovers scheduled for launch in 2003 are using the same type airbag landing system that Mars Pathfinder used in 1997. The airbags must be strong enough to cushion the spacecraft if it lands on rocks or rough terrain and allow it to bounce across Mars’ surface at freeway speeds after landing. To add to the complexity, the airbags must be inflated seconds before touchdown and deflated once safely on the ground.