On August 5th, 2012, a 2,000 pound rover by the name of Curiosity will land on Mars. This is NASA’s biggest and most expensive journey to Mars with little margin for error. Traveling over 13,000 miles per hour, Curiosity will slam into the Martian atmosphere to dissipate its velocity. A parachute will then deploy to slow its decent even more until the probe will physically lower the rover via cable and fire retro-rockets to gently place it on the surface. After it has successfully landed, the probe will shoot off to crash a safe distance away.
Sounds simple, right? Well, NASA’s team of scientists call this the “7 Minutes of Terror”. By the time they receive confirmation that Curiosity is about to enter the atmosphere, the rover itself will already be on the ground or have crash-landed. This is due to the amount of time radio signals take to travel from Mars to Earth (roughly 15 minutes one-way).
I am personally very excited for this tremendous event! At 7 feet tall, 9 feet wide and 10 feet long, the rover hosts an impressive array of gadgets that will help us to understand our neighboring planet, and hopefully confirm the presence of ancient life. That is, if all goes well….
For more information: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-mars-rover-human-approach.html