7 Minutes of Terror: NASA's Dramatic Mars-Landing PreviewThe Hollywood-style YouTube video is a hit with viewers
On Aug. 5 or Aug. 6, depending on which part of the country you're in, the Curiosity spacecraft careening toward Mars will hit the Red Planet's atmosphere, deploy a supersonic parachute and either land safely on the planet's surface or perish. It's dramatic stuff, and NASA has produced this Hollywood-style YouTube video, complete with animation and suspenseful music, to preview the landing, evoke that drama and put viewers on the edge of their seats.
"When people look at it, it looks crazy," NASA engineer Adam Steltzner says of the mission as the video opens. "That's a very natural thing. Sometimes when we look at it, it looks crazy."
Why do they call it "Seven Minutes of Terror"?
As engineers explain, it will take seven minutes for Curiosity to travel from the edge of Mars' atmosphere to the surface, going from a speed of 13,000 mph to zero. "If any one thing doesn't work just right, it's game over," engineer Tom Rivellini says.
Because Mars is so far away, it actually takes 14 minutes for the spacecraft's signal to reach Earth. So by the time we learn the spacecraft has hit the top of Mars' atmosphere, Curiosity will have either have survived the landing or perished for a full seven minutes.
The video has been viewed over a million times since it was posted two months ago. Reports The New York Times: "[T]he video has succeeded in an area where NASA has a mixed track record: using social media and other tools of the 21st century to whip up interest in space exploration."
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