Explanation: Next week at this time, there may be an amazing new robotic explorer on Mars. Or there may be a new pile of junk. It all likely depends on many things going correctly in the minutes after the Mars Science Laboratory mission arrives at Mars and attempts to deploy the Curiosity rover from orbit. Arguably the most sophisticated landing yet attempted on the red planet, consecutive precision events will involve a heat shield, a parachute, several rocket maneuvers, and the automatic operation of an unusual device called a Sky Crane. These "Seven Minutes of Terror" -- depicted in the above dramatic video -- will begin on Sunday, August 6 at about 5:24 am Universal time, which occurs on Saturday night, August 5 for western North Americans. If successful, the car-sized Curiosity rover will rest on the surface of Mars, soon to begin exploring Gale Crater to better determine the habitability of this seemingly barren world to life -- past, present, and future. Although multiple media outlets may cover this event, one way to watch these landing events unfold is on the NASA channel live on the web.
Providing it does get down safely, this should be a very interesting expedition. It is landing on the floor of a crater near to what look like old water flows. If there ever has been life on Mars or not, this probe has a much better chance of giving a definite answer. The previous attempt, the Viking back in 1976, gave a what I always thought of as "We still aren't sure" answer, that was changed to a "No Life" answer in the interests of fiscal responsibility.
I don't believe in astrology. I am a Gemini and
we're very skeptical.
It takes nearly 14 minutes for radio signals to get from Mars (current location) to Earth. The "Seven Minutes of Terror" will be over for almost seven minutes before NASA knows if it was a success or failure. That will be a very long seven-minute wait.