Wheaton Guides Curiosity's Fans to Red Planet

Uploaded by NASAtelevision on 30.07.2012

Curiosity is getting ready to make a grand entrance!
The largest rover ever sent to another planet, will touch down in the middle of the night,
after a spectacular entry into the Martian atmosphere and descent to the surface.
And liftoff of the Atlas V with Curiosity.
Curiosity rover made a picture-perfect launch in November 2011. And Now, after more than
8 months and 350 million miles, it’s time to get down to business.
But first Curiosity must get down to that surface safely.
When she arrives at Mars, Curiosity has seven minutes to go from 13,000 miles an hour to
a soft landing. These so called “seven minutes of terror” encompass a sequence of steps
that we cannot control or even witness in real time because signals take fourteen minutes
to reach Earth from Mars.
Curiosity’s heat shield burning at a temperature of nearly 3000 degrees Fahrenheit will protect
the rover as it slows down rapidly. On the way down, the spacecraft fires thrusters to
stay on target for Gail Crater
Then, at 1000 miles per hour, the chute opens, slowing the spacecraft below the speed of
sound. Next, the heat shield is jettisoned, and Curiosity begins looking for the surface
with landing radars that lets onboard computers know how far it is above the ground.
About five minutes into entry, the spacecraft is moving about 200 miles per hour and is
about a mile up, the Descent Stage with curiosity fastened underneath, tucked drops from the
parachute, fires up its landing engines and slows the system to a near stop.
Curiosity first gets to stretch her legs at approximately 2 miles per hour, about 60 feet
above the ground. With wheels deployed, Curiosity is lowered on a Skycrane to the surface. After
touch down, the Sky Crane’s work is done and it cuts loose to fly a safe distance away
from our newest rover on Mars.
In a few days as Curiosity stands up her mast, she will give us our first close up of Gale
Crater—an impact crater 96 miles wide with a 3-mile high mountain at its center. The
crater’s rock layers were laid down and then eroded away, showing us a cross-section
of Mars’ history. Liquid water was necessary to form the geology we’ve seen from orbit…and
that makes Gale Crater a great place to look for evidence of places that could have once
harbored life.
During her two Earth year primary mission, Curiosity will tell us about Mars’ geology,
weather and current radiation levels, which are key to sending humans there someday. The
rover’s laser will examine rocks and will help find places to take samples for the onboard
chemistry lab that can identify minerals and organic materials—the building blocks of
This nuclear-powered, one-ton rover will take us ever closer to examining deep layers of
history, and perhaps closer to an answer to the ancient question: was there ever life
on Mars?