Traveling at 13,000 mph, the Mars rover Curiosity has seven minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere to the surface of the red planet - and if one thing goes wrong, it's "game over,'' JPL officials said in a video produced by the space agency.
"Seven Minutes of Terror,'' a video directed by producer/director John Beck, outlines the dramatic ballet that Curiosity must perform for the 10:31 p.m. landing on Aug. 5 to be a success. You may watch the video above this article.
"Going from 13,000 mph to zero, in perfect sequence, perfect choreography perfect timing and the computer has to do it all by itself,'' Entry, Dissent and Landing (EDL) Engineer Tom Rivellini said in the video. "If any one thing doesn't work just right, it's game over.''
Curiosity is the most technologically advanced rover ever built, according to JPL's website. The purpose of the mission is to determine whether the planet ever was, or is, habitable to microbial life. The rover features 76 pyrotechnic devices and a supersonic parachute.
"It is the result of reasoned, engineering thought, but it still looks crazy,'' EDL Engineer Adam Steltzner said in the video. "Sometimes when we look at it, it looks crazy.''
Steltzner pointed out that while it takes seven minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere down to the surface of Mars, it takes 14 minutes or so for the signal from the space craft to make it to Earth (that's how far away Mars is, he noted).
So when JPL officials first get word that Curiosity has touched down, the rover will have been alive -- or dead -- on the surface for at least seven minutes, he said.