NASA's Curiosity Rover to Land on Mars in About 2 Hours

Posted on August 5, 2012

NASA's Curiosity rover will land on Mars at 10:31 p.m. PDT on August 5th (1:31 a.m. EDT Aug. 6). The landing will complete its 352 million mile (567 million kilometer), 36-week journey from Earth. The incredibly complex landing has been dubbed the Seven Minutes of Terror. NASA will be in the dark as to what is happening with Curiosity during its 7-minute landing period because it takes longer than that (about 14 minutes) for the signal from the rover to make it to Earth.

Mars Curiosity Rover Communicating During Landing

This artist's image above shows how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth during landing. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dashes) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles) that require relaying by orbiters. NASA's Odyssey orbiter will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth, while NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time.

The first image NASA expects to receive back from Curiosity will be very small. It will be a 64 pixels by 64 pixels image, which is a smaller version of a larger image acquired by the rover's hazard camera. NASA says this image illustrates the size of the first image it will acquire from the rover post landing. They will very excited to get it.

Mars Curiosity Rover Example of First Image

NASA has also shared an interesting article here about what to expect once Curiosity begins taking pictures.

Curiosity Rover Cameras

NASA says it may take several days before NASA engineers have decided it is safe to deploy the rover's Remote Sensing Mast and its high-tech cameras. You can find the Curiosity Countdown Clock here on the Mars Science Laboratory website. You can also follow Curiosity on Twitter, @MarsCuriosity. NASA has also shared a GigaPan image of JPL's Mission Support Area (MSA).

JPL Mission Support Area MSA

Photos: NASA/JPL-Caltech