How the Curiosity rover will land on Mars cnet

Slamming into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph and enduring temperatures of up to 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit, a peak deceleration of up to 15 Gs, and the jerk of a supersonic braking parachute–that’s just the opening act.
For NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, the real fun will start 50 seconds before touchdown when the one-ton nuclear-powered rover falls free of its parachute for a nail-biting rocket-powered final descent to the surface. (For the main story in this package, see “On Mars, satisfaction awaits Curiosity.”)
Unlike past Mars missions, the Curiosity rover will not set down atop a legged lander or bounce to the surface surrounded by shock-absorbing airbags. Instead, it will be lowered to the ground and set on its wheels by a slowly descending “sky crane” designed to unreel the lander like a lure on a fishing line.