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Spacecraft 'Curiosity' to land on Mars overnight

7:40 PM, Aug 5, 2012   |    comments
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By John Zarrella

(CNN) - It will be only a short time before NASA realizes success or failure for its newest mission to Mars.  Spacecraft "Curiosity" is expected to touch down on the red planet early Monday morning following what NASA is calling "seven minutes of terror."

Curiosity has spent eight months in space and has traveled 354 million miles to reach its destination.  After nearly a decade of work, the seven minutes leading up to the touchdown of the rover on the Martian surface will determine the reaction of NASA scientists and engineers.

 "We think about failure every day.  We think about how to avoid failure," said Rob Manning, Chief Engineer.

The spacecraft will hit the atmosphere at 13 thousand miles per hour, steering her way toward a specific landing spot that NASA thinks could have hints about past or present life on the planet.

In order to land the car-sized craft on such a specific spot, NASA developed a new landing system involving rockets and a skycrane to place the craft between a mountain and a crater wall.   

"To get there safely though, we need to be able to land on the one big flat spot that sits right at the foot of that mountain inside the walls of a crater," said Manning

Even with years of preparation, once Curiosity hits the atmosphere, all the scientists and engineers can do is hold their collective breath and wait. 

Curiosity is scheduled to land at 12:31a.m. CST on Monday.  NASA will stream the landing live Here beginning at 10p.m.

 

CNN

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