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If NASA’s 2009 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) reaches the red
planet’s surface in one piece, the agency will owe a debt of
gratitude to the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane heavy-lift helicopter.
Like its namesake, NASA’s Sky Crane carrier platform will hover
above its drop site—albeit with retrorockets rather than rotor
blades—and lower its payload, the compact car-sized MSL rover,
to the surface using a winch and tether.
As soon as the rover is ready to roll, the tether connection will
be severed and the Sky Crane will fly off and crash land a short