How to Land a Rover on Mars
So you want to land that rover you built on the surface of Mars and start exploring right?
Well here is how you do it…
How NASA plans to land a 2000 pound rover on Mars
A month from now, the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover is set to touch down on the surface of the Red Planet and begin its mission to learn more about the possible existence of life – past or present. Curiosity will attempt to touch down using a complex and unusual landing sequence unlike any other used for previous Mars rovers … here’s how the plan will unfold.
In the context of Mars exploration, the landing ellipse describes the area inside of which a rover has a 99 percent chance of landing. Previous Mars landers (Spirit, Opportunity, Pathfinder and Phoenix) have operated with a ballistic landing system that meant a very elongated landing ellipse: Pathfinder, for instance had a 185 by 9 miles (300 by 15 km) ellipse, and the limited mobility of the rovers meant that scientist have had very little control over exactly which terrain the rovers would find themselves in.
read the full story here
The NASA video below illustrates the different phases of the landing.