NASA Marks Landing of the Curiosity Rover with Online, Televised Coverage

NASA is set to land the largest rover sent to Mars on a two-year mission to find whether the Red Planet ever hosted microbial life

By Alissa Medina and Conan Nolan
|  Thursday, Aug 2, 2012  |  Updated 8:30 PM PDT
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NASA's rover Curiosity will soon land on Mars to investigate whether the Red Planet ever had the right conditions to support life. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will grant Curiosity fans virtual access to Mission Control with streaming online video and news briefings. Conan Nolan reports from JPL in Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 2, 2012.

Conan Nolan

NASA's rover Curiosity will soon land on Mars to investigate whether the Red Planet ever had the right conditions to support life. Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena will grant Curiosity fans virtual access to Mission Control with streaming online video and news briefings. Conan Nolan reports from JPL in Pasadena for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on August 2, 2012.

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Fans of NASA’s Curiosity will have virtual access to Mission Control and experience the "seven moments of terror" preceding the one-ton rover’s historic Mars landing this weekend with televised and online streaming video.

Curiosity's momentous landing will be celebrated with pre- and post-landing live broadcasts from Mission Control in Pasadena and daily commentary starting Thursday until the rover lands at about 10:30 p.m. PDT Sunday.

Curiosity and its mobile laboratory will investigate whether Mars held any evidence of a wet history inside Mars’ Gale crater. The quest seeks to prove whether the Red Planet ever had an environment fit for microbial life.

"This mission transitions the program's science emphasis from the planet's water history to its potential for past or present life," Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a press release.

Since the rover is the heaviest specimen ever sent to Mars, it requires a different way to get there.

The spacecraft holding Curiosity must go from 13,200 mph to about 1.7 mph for it to successfully land on the surface.

Before starting on its two-year mission, Curiosity must surpass what scientists have dubbed the "seven minutes of terror" – the time it will take from the rover hitting the tip of the atmosphere to landing on Mars’ surface.

"This seems crazy, but it actually was the least crazy of all the options," JPL spokesman Adam Steltzner told NBC4. "Like a parent, I love each of my seven minutes (of terror) equally."

Click here to watch the Curiosity commentary and for a full schedule.

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