Artist's concept of the Curiosity rover descending toward Mars under an open parachute.
Curiosity will use the largest parachute ever built to fly on a planetary mission. The parachute uses a configuration called disk-gap-band. It has 80 suspension lines, measures more than 50 meters) in length, and opens to a diameter of nearly 16 meters. The parachute is designed to survive deployment at Mach 2.2 in the Martian atmosphere.
The parachute is attached to the top of the backshell portion of the spacecraft's aeroshell. In the scene depicted here, the heat shield portion of the aeroshell has been jettisoned and Curiosity is visible tucked into the backshell. The spacecraft's descent stage is also inside the backshell. When the backshell drops away, a radar system on the descent stage can begin determining the spacecraft's altitude and velocity.