NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. (Photo : NASA)
NASA's rover Curiosity is set to land on Mars in August, and although initial outlooks have been positive, there is still much to overcome before the rover settles down safely on the Martian landscape. In fact, the landing is so critical and precise, that NASA has dubbed it "Seven Minutes of Terror."
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"When people look at it, it looks crazy," senior EDL engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Adam Steltzner said in a new video by NASA on the rover landing. "It is the result of reasoned engineering thought, but it still looks crazy."
The landing process once the rover touches the top of the Red Planet's atmosphere will take around seven minutes, and involve a complex series of preprogrammed procedures. Radio signals will take 14 minutes to reach Earth, so scientists will have no way to communicate with the rover until after it has touched down.
It will have to deploy parachutes, use thrusters, and a complex precision-landing program to touch down intact. And on top of all that, NASA recently narrowed the landing field for Curiosity because it is so confident in the precision-landing gear.
The instructions and software updates for the landing procedure will be sent to Curiosity via radio signals as it travels towards Mars.
Here a video by NASA detailing the landing process: