Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror: VIDEO

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The Mars rover Curiosity will touch down tomorrow morning. It is the size of a big sedan, and it has been traveling through the near-vacuum of intrastellar space for eight months. If it lands safely, it will probe the rocks and dirt in and around Gale Crater in the hope of finally establishing whether Mars was ever a suitable environment for life. It will be a magnificent achievement; one all of humanity will be able to boast about for millenia.

But -- have you ever tried landing a sedan-sized rover on a planet that resides at an average of 225 million kilometers from Earth? On a planet with an atmosphere so thin that parachutes won't be sufficient to slow its descent? It's not easy. Ian Sample, of The Guardian, has written an excellent explanation of the process by which NASA scientists intend to get Curiosity aground -- an improbable, crazy-sounding sequence of mechanical feats which the involved scientists have begun calling "Seven Minutes of Terror." And NASA has produced a sharp, graphics-heavy video to explain the same thing. Harrowing stuff! Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...