• Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
07/31/2012 07:00:00

Countdown to Mars: Seven Minutes of Terror

After years of planning and months of travel, the journey of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will culminate with a challenging entry, descent, and landing event on August 5 that will take just a few minutes to complete. But for those in mission control, those final moments—from the time of the spacecraft's entry into the Martian atmosphere to the Curiosity rover's final landing on the Red Planet—will undoubtedly feel like a lifetime. Dubbed the "Seven Minutes of Terror" by NASA, the precise maneuvers needed for Curiosity to touch down safely on the planet are both complex and ambitious.

In fact, the process by which MSL will descend to Mars's surface is so dramatic that NASA has made a short movie—with all the suspense and pizazz of a Hollywood trailer—to explain the approach.

Written by Katie Neith