Who’s excited for Mars? I know I am.
After 8 1/2 months crossing the millions of miles between planets, the biggest and most complex rover ever sent to another world is now on its final approach for a hair-raising touchdown on Mars.
NASA’s 1-ton Curiosity rover is set to land inside the Red Planet’s Gale Crater at 10:31 p.m. PDT tonight (Aug. 5; 1:31 a.m. EDT and 0531 GMT on Aug. 6). As with any planetary landing, success is not a given, and tensions may be especially high tonight given Curiosity’s elaborate, unprecedented landing sequence.
The rover’s spacecraft will barrel into the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph (21,000 kph), then deploy a huge supersonic parachute to slow it to about 200 mph (320 kph). Rockets will slow the vehicle’s descent further, to less than 2 mph (3.2 kph), setting the stage for a spectacular “sky crane” maneuver.
Curiosity’s descent stage will lower the enormous rover to the Martian surface on cables, then fly off to crash-land intentionally a safe distance away. Engineers have dubbed the entire sequence “seven minutes of terror” (watch), because that’s how long it’ll take from atmospheric entry to touchdown.
Curiosity made it you guys!!!! How exciting! We’re watching stuff online right now!