Landing a Mars Rover is no easy feat. It involves detaching landing gear, high-strength parachutes, on-the-fly course corrections, rockets and cables. And it all has to be done autonomously by the onboard systems, as the rover makes its descent in just seven minutes, and communication back to earth takes about 14.
The last two rovers landed using balloons to cushion the blow. Curiosity, which is scheduled to land at 10:31 PM PDT on Sunday, August 5th, weighs a lot more and therefore this crazy sequence of events had to be conceived to ensure a soft landing.
Check out this video that NASA's Jet Propulsion Labrotory put together to explain the process:
And for more information on the Mars Rovers check out the JPL's Mars Rovers website: