Science: The Samovar That Landed on Mars

NEARLY a month after the event, the Soviet Union released photographs of its Mars 3 capsule, the first earthly vehicle to make a "soft landing" on the planet Mars. Although they were accompanied by few technical details, the pictures of what looked like a flying samovar gave some clues to its operation: after its conical heat shield (not shown) was jettisoned, a small parachute was released, retarding the capsule's descent slightly in the thin Martian atmosphere. Then the larger main chute was unfurled from a ring-shaped container under the lander's spherical body. Finally, a burst from the ship's retrorocket provided additional...

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