Every Mars landing since 1976 has featured big airbags designed to let the craft bounce to a soft landing. Sometime around 7:40 pm ET Sunday, the aptly-named Phoenix will attempt a rocket landing on Mars, and, if successful, will dig through the soil at the polar north looking for evidence of microbial life and to continue the study of the history of water on the planet. Some fascinating hints have already been uncovered, literally.
An SUV-sized roving science laboratory will leave for Mars in 2009 to put wheels to Phoenix's work.
Getting a rocket landing right will hasten plans for human exploration of the planet. And finding evidence for life? Well that could hasten the end of some uncritical thinking.
Here is a very well produced and brief video about the difficulties of Phoenix's Sunday arrival called "Seven Minutes of Terror." The frequent references to "EDL" stand for "entry, descent and landing."
Amazon: Martian Chronicles