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Mars rover landing – a closer look at Curiosity's descent

Last updated: Aug. 2, 2012

The long-anticipated landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars is set to take place this Sunday. Releasing the mobile research robot from the spacecraft that has carried it on its 8½-month-long journey from Earth and bringing it to rest on the surface of the red planet is no ordinary feat. The complicated manoeuvre has been described as "seven minutes of terror" for the time it will take the rover to travel from the top of Mars's atmosphere to its surface, a period in which it must decelerate from an approaching speed of 21,000 km/h to zero.

> How to watch the landing

Below is a step by step breakdown of the planned landing, from 10 minutes before Curiosity enters Mars's very thin atmosphere to when it touches down in the Gale Crater near the Martian equator at 10:31 p.m. PT on Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. ET Aug. 6).

Sources: NASA / JPL-Caltech


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