NASA (and XBox Gamers) Prepare for Terrifyingly Hard Mars Landing | Smart News | Smithsonian
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NASA (and XBox Gamers) Prepare for Terrifyingly Hard Mars Landing

Though NASA's video shows the intricate and disaster-prone landing sequence, there is also a free Xbox 360 video game that lets you see if you can make it safely down to the surface.

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The left vehicle shows the twin Spirit and Opportunity rovers, the center machine is the Sojourner rover, and the car-sized Curiosity is on the right. Photo: NASA/JPL

NASA has an uncanny ability to dream up ideas that are so daring and so technologically masterful that the results can leave you drowning in awe.

In November of last year, the Mars Science Laboratory, carrying a rover that goes by “Curiosity,” blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida atop an Atlas V rocket. Since then, Curiosity has been cruising through space, preparing for its August 5 landing on Mars.

The Curiosity landing will take seven minutes and will be completely automated, as Mars is too far away for the entry to be controlled remotely. Adam Steltzner, an Entry, Descent, and Landing engineer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says,

When we first get word that we’ve touched the top of the atmosphere, the vehicle has been alive, or dead, on the surface, for at least seven minutes.

Curiosity is the largest rover to date, and as such the air bag system used for the previous rover missions won’t be able to protect the heavier piece of equipment.

NASA’s video shows the intricate and disaster-prone landing sequence:

Think you could make it safely down to the surface? There’s a free Xbox 360 video game that—if you have access to a Kinect Xbox motion controller—lets you try.

 

More from Smithsonian.com:

Curious About Curiosity? What to Read on the Mars Science Laboratory

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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