Shatner Hosts Curiosity's "Grand Entrance" to Mars

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 nearly 3000 degrees Fahrenheit will protect the rover
as she 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 200 miles per hour and is about a mile up, the Descent Stage with curiosity
tucked underneath, 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.  
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, 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 life.
  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?