Seven Minutes of Terror Video: How Mars Curiosity Landing Works
Mars Curiosity Rover Landing Will Be Even harder than It Sounds. Here's What Will Happen when Curiosity Lands on Mars.
Think landing the Mars Curiosity rover on August 5 will be easy? Of course you don't. However, landing the Curiosity on the surface of Mars will be even harder than you imagine.
In a video called "Seven Minutes of Terror", NASA Jet Propulsion Labs lays out exactly what has to happen in order for Mars Curiosity to successful deploy and start taking samples and shooting footage. You can see the "Seven Minutes of Terror" video below, but here's a quick breakdown.
As the title of the video suggests, the journey from the edge of Mars' atmosphere to the surface takes seven minutes. 13,000mph to 0 in seven minutes: what could possibly go wrong? Oh, and it takes 14 minutes for spacecraft's signal to make it back to Earth, so, once the Curiosity gets moving, we won't know for at at least seven minutes from go-time if the mission was successful or not.
Step One is, fly to Mars, but we'll take that as a given, so, here we go...
- Entry Interface: Lander hits Mars atmosphere
- Peak Heating: 1600F (871C)
- Hypersonic Aero-Maneuvering: tougher than on Earth in such a thin atmosphere. The Lander can't really slow itself down, so...
- Parachute Deploy: using the strongest parachute ever created. We hope it's strong enough.
- Heatshield Separation:Clear the way for the radar to work, otherwise... Game Over
- Radar Data Collection: For orientation and speed measurement (about 200mph with the parachute)
- Backshell Separation: Ditch the parachute; it's no longer slowing Curiosity down.
- Powered Descent: Fire retro-rockets! Change direction so you don't hit the still-falling parachute! Aiming to land in a crater next to a 6km-high mountain
- Skycrane-Rover Separation: Curiosity is lowered from the descender on a 21-ft tether.
- First Contact: Gently... gently... Curiosity confirms it has hit the ground
- Flyaway: descender separates from Curiosity and gets the hell out of Dodge, so it doesn't crash into the rover. It will end up as litter on the surface of Mars, along with the parachute and the other lander parts. Now Mars Curiosity is on Mars, and ready to do its thing.
Yes, it's complicated. No, there's no room for error. Look at the Mars Curiosity rover on the NASA JPL website: it seems to be saying, "You want me to do what?"
We hope you're as excited about the Mars Curiosity mission as we are, and we hope you enjoy our live Mars landing video coverage.
Also check out:
Boing Boing: Conversation with NASA's Ashwin Vasavada