An engineering model of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is seen from the rear in a sandy, Mars-like environment named the Mars Yard at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California July 25, 2012. The real Curiosity rover, part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, is on its way to the Red Planet, with a planned arrival and landing on the evening of August 5 PDT, early morning August 6 EDT. (Photo : REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)
The Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity Rover, is slated to land on the red planet in just days, an event that has everyone talking. Most notable of all was TV comedian Stephen Colbert who gave John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administration for science missions, some time on his "The Colbert Report."
During the program Wednesday, Grunsfeld detailed the steps involved in the Curiosity Rover's journey to the surface of Mars. "As it enters the atmosphere, it will start slowing down," Grunsfeld detailed utilizing an animated video of the rover's landing. "It will reach about 10 Gs of acceleration."
The landing of the aircraft will be supported by a supersonic parachute and a rocket-powered sky crane which will slow the rover's speed from more than 13,00 mph to zero in just seven minutes.
The landing is slated to occur Monday August 5 at 10:31 PDT and the descent has been dubbed "the seven minutes of terror." The descent will be automatic with mission controllers on the ground having no ability to intervene in the process. The landing will be delayed by at least 14 minutes which is the time necessary for a signal from mars to reach earth.
The rover carries 10 instruments with it to Mars that are designed to search for evidence that the Red Planet has an environment that can sustain life. "This is the first mission where we've sent an organic chemistry laboratory to the surface of Mars," Grunsfeld said.
Grunsfeld asserted that the device would be unable to detect aliens on the planet. Colbert responded with his customary humor.
"It makes you wonder," Colbert joked. "Genesis. It wasn't until the fourth day that God created any living creatures. And then on the fifth day, it was animals, and the sixth day it was man, and then it said on the seventh day he rested. Maybe that's a lie. Maybe he went to Mars."
The Seven Minutes of Terror
The Creation of the Curiosity Rover