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In-situ Exploration and Sample Return: Entry, Descent, and Landing

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Looking like a giant cluster of white grapes or a bouquet of beach balls, a set of Mars Exploration Rover airbags sit, fully inflated, in a test facility.  The image, demonstrating how massive they are, features two men on a very large ladder that only makes it about three-quarters of the way up the airbags 18-foot (5.5-meter) height.

The fully inflated Mars Exploration Rover airbags stand about 18 feet (5.5 meters) high. Each rover used four airbags with six lobes each, which are all connected. Connection is important, since it helped abate some of the landing forces by keeping the bag system flexible and responsive to ground pressure. The fabric of the airbags was not attached directly to the rover; ropes that crisscross the bags held the fabric to the rover. The ropes gave the bags shape, which made inflation easier. While in flight, the bags were stowed along with three gas generators.

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