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Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

NASA JPL’s nuclear-powered Curiosity rover will try to land at the foot of a 3-mile-high mountain on Mars this Sunday night (technically, early Monday morning) to learn more about the possible building blocks of life there.

The rover is about the size of a car. The whole project costs about $2.5 billion. As you can see from JPL’s now-viral “Seven Minutes of Terror" video, the landing process is something of a Rube Goldberg scheme. It’ll be amazing if this works. It’ll really suck for JPL, and the immediate future of space exploration funding, if it doesn’t.

Here’s how to follow the Mars rover’s journey.

  • There will be live broadcasts from JPL streatmed on NASA TV and with live chat via NASA TV. JPL will carry that feed with a live, moderated Web chat at ustream.tv/NASAJPL.

  • Landing Facebook event page (guests can RSVP to watch the live broadcast, invite their friends and share photos of their landing-night events)

  • Eyes on the Solar System computer simulation of entry, descent and landing allows you to hop on board the rover and see what she sees during landing. You can pause time, speed up, slow down, and check out all the parts of the spacecraft. On landing night, there will be a shortcut button that lets you watch a live simulation of what’s slated to happen at Mars.

  • The Curiosity rover will be live-tweeting the entry, descent and landing process via @MarsCuriosity. JPL will also be sharing news from mission control via @NASAJPL.

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