ENTRY 0 minutes
As it begins entry stage, the MSL consists of four major components: a back shell, a heat shield, a descent module and the Curiosity rover. Just before reaching the Martian atmosphere, the MSL will jettison two 165-pound tungsten weights from its back shell. The shift in mass will tilt the craft relative to its direction of travel, generating lift and allowing for some navigational control. The MSL will use eight thrusters on its back shell to guide itself toward the landing zone. Over nearly four minutes, friction will slow the MSL to 1,000 mph, at which point the craft will jettison six more weights, rebalancing its tilt angle relative to its motion.