Lifestyle & Belief

Curiosity landing: 7 minutes of terror and joy


Telecom engineer Peter Ilott hugs a colleague, celebrating a successful landing inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory on August 5, 2012 in Pasadena, California.



Curiosity, the most complex and expensive robot ever sent to Mars, touched down on the red planet yesterday, but not before causing NASA scientists to simultaneously freak out with both terror and joy.  

Before the expensive piece of robotics could land, it had to go through what is known as the "seven minutes of terror."

The rover, which has been sent to investigate whether or not Mars can support life, had to brake to a stop from a speed of 13,000 miles per hour in just seven minutes, the Associated Press reported.  

Here's a breakdown of how that happened:


On landing the nuclear powered machine roughly the size of a car, Aam Steltzner, an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission, told the AP, "The degree of difficulty is above a 10."

The successful landing is the product of eight years of planning and eight months of interplanetary travel, according to NBC. Which is why after landing the machine, NASA headquarters looked like this: