Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity headed for Mars landing. Are you ready?

NASA JPL's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover will try to land at the foot of a 3-mile-high mountain on Mars this Sunday night (technically, early Monday morning) to learn more about the possible building blocks of life there.

The rover is about the size of a car. The whole project costs about $2.5 billion. As you can see from JPL's now-viral "Seven Minutes of Terror" video, the landing process is something of a Rube Goldberg scheme. It'll be amazing if this works. It'll really suck for JPL, and the immediate future of space exploration funding, if it doesn't.

Here's how to follow the Mars rover's journey.

• There will be live broadcasts from JPL streatmed on NASA TV and with live chat via NASA TV. JPL will carry that feed with a live, moderated Web chat at

• There will be a NASA Social speaker program (Friday 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. PT), also with live chat at There will be participants from NASA HQ, JPL, mission scientists and engineers.

• Landing night broadcasts start 8:30 p.m. PT, Sunday August 5. Again, NASA TV and with live chat at Those will go till the wee small hours of Sunday.

Landing Facebook event page (guests can RSVP to watch the live broadcast, invite their friends and share photos of their landing-night events)

Eyes on the Solar System computer simulation of entry, descent and landing allows you to hop on board the rover and see what she sees during landing. You can pause time, speed up, slow down, and check out all the parts of the spacecraft. On landing night, there will be a shortcut button that lets you watch a live simulation of what's slated to happen at Mars.

• The Curiosity rover will be live-tweeting the entry, descent and landing process via @MarsCuriosity. JPL will also be sharing news from mission control via @NASAJPL.

(Thanks, Stephanie L. Smith)


  1. Curiosity’s landing technique is so peculiar that I’m investing no  enthusiasm or hopes in the rover until it is safely gadding about the Red Planet.

    1.  I was surprised to learn that NASA’s actual rate for successful landings of any sort on Mars is only 30-40%. In the NASA v. Mars competition, as the NASA guy put it: “Mars wins most of the time.”

      1. Facts folks – NASA’s lander success rate is just shy of 85% – Viking1, Viking2, Pathfinder, MER-A (Spirit), MER-B (Opportunity) & Phoenix. Only Mars Polar Lander was a failed lander. That’s a pretty damn fine record. A higher percentage of (mostly earlier) US orbiters have failed but NASA’s record at Mars is awesome. Earth’s record is less impressive but NASA can’t be blamed if those of us in the rest of the world can’t match their expertise. 

        1. Well you will need to take it up with Doug McCuistion, Director, Mars Exploration Program, NASA Headquarters, when he says, and I quote:”Earth v. Mars if you will, for all missions we’ve sent, we’re right around 40%, 35-40%, so Mars wins most of the time.”

          Question at the 48 min mark.

          Edit: I misunderstood your comment before I replied but there is no delete button so I’ll leave it. I see what you are saying, focus on NASA only and on landers only and numbers improve.

  2. • Landing night broadcasts start 8:30 p.m. PT, Sunday August 5. Again, NASA TV and with live chat at Those will go till the wee small hours of Sunday. 

    UK times for this is 4:30 AM Monday 6th with the landing itself scheduled for 6:31 AM

    1.  Thankyou, I was trying to figure out what PT meant, would be nice if they’d refer to GMT or UTC every now and again so everyone could understand!

  3. Be sure to check out the Eyes on the Solar System simulation!

    It’ll let you follow the rover to the surface in parallel with the real thing. Here’s a video of how it looks:

    1. I watched it all the way up to the heatshield sep, but decided to save the rest for later. What I did see though was spot on and excellent. You guys did incredible work to make the Eyes simulation as accurate as possible. Mad respect. Give my props to the rest of the team as well.

    2.  I like how you can put that sim  in reverse… with a bit of fiddling you can go backwards at -16 minutes a second.

      Then you can change the date to November 27th, 2011, and then, watch it do an Earth flyby on November 26th around noon (It doesn’t quite Benjamin Button back into a rocket and launch from Earth, but still…pretty neat).

  4. The lack of a test mission for the skycrane worries me. An awful lot of money is being risked on this unproven technique.

    1. I don’t know why. We had those things in Boy Scouts years ago. They came in a set with the left handed bacon stretcher.

    2. “An awful lot of money”? It cost about the same as a week of killing in foreign countries. I don’t care if it fails miserably, it’s worth the effort. In science,  failure is always an option.

      1. If it fails, then there will be severe repercussions throughout the Mars exploration groups. The cost of spacecraft is NOT a trivial part of the budget of NASA. Unless you have a solution to that, then I suggest you stop the false comparisons. A failure will also lose valuable Pu-238 on the surface of Mars. This is a very, very scarce resource. Finally, a failure would ripple down throughout all planned missions. Missions would be cancelled or delayed while a root cause investigation was pursued. Oh, and a massive multibillion dollar failed mission wouldn’t help NASA politically (you know, that budget thing again).

        1.  Um, stop killing people in foreign countries? As a solution, I rather like that one, personally.

          1. And that increases NASA’s budget?

            How curious. There weren’t a lot of wars the US was involved in in the 90s, but NASA’s budget didn’t increase by leaps and bounds. In 2000 even with a budget surplus nearly 10 times the size of NASA’s budget and no active wars, nobody decided to give NASA any more money.

          2. All you have to do is elect people to office who are willing to kill their careers by fighting industrialists. Piece of cake.  

            Obama has been *extremely* friendly to industry and he’s about to be outspent 2:1 in the upcoming election. 

            If you want less war and more science, get 150,000 people to protest in every major city in the US, for 4 months straight. Have them demand a constitutional amendment that eliminates private campaign spending. Done and done. 

            Now get organizing!

    3. Whole lot of unproven techniques involved in every single Mars mission.  It’s not like this is some routine thing we do, with each mission merely duplicating the previous one.

  5. very very cool. I love the video! hopefully they pull it off, I’m definitely rooting for them.

    1. The others were much smaller, so could deploy airbags and bounce to a safe halt. This one is much bigger and heavier, the size and weight of a small car, so it will be travelling way too fast for air bags.
      And Mars’ atmosphere is much too thin to parachute all the way down, so a skycrane is the way to go.

  6. I really hope this works out, but I feel like we’re going to be watching this video again next week saying “Considering all the very finicky mechanical steps that had to go exactly right, exactly on time, and at very high speeds and dynamic loads……. how did anyone ever think this would work?”

    Please let me be wrong.

    (And, yes, I understand the challenges of getting something this big onto Mars and why they went with this scheme. But I’m still not very confident that it will work.)

    1. Agreed. A prototype mission would have been wise. Sojourner was an excellent prototype for the MERs. NASA is taking a big shortcut here.

      1. A prototype mission? With just a $17 billion budget? They barely had enough to do the one actual mission, let alone two.

        1. NASA is an expert at testing technology before using it on a critical mission. I can only think of one mission that NASA has performed on a multibillion dollar project where they did not have a prototype flight or equivalent experience from other programs: the initial Space Shuttle flight.

          Prototype missions are done to test new technology. Failing to launch one when it is needed is a failure of your test program. I am criticizing your statement because it is part of the ‘Go’ mentality that NASA needs to rid itself of. Testing is part of the cost of a spacecraft. Rolling the dice should never be a part of spacecraft design.

          I really hope that you are not an engineer. If this mission fails due to issues with the skycrane, the root cause investigation is going to state that the mission failed due to “an inadequate testing program and overconfidence in design.”

  7.  What really sucks, and will continue to suck, is that people will look down on NASA for a mission failure on something as absurdly dangerous as interplanetary exploration.

    But wishful thinking or not, I kind of think that it’ll work.

    1. Agreed. It always bums me out to read sentences like “It’ll really suck for JPL, and the immediate future of space exploration funding, if it doesn’t.” It bums me out because I’d like to be able to throw my hands in the air and say “What a ridiculous statement.” But it’s not ridiculous, because it’s true.

      Thankfully there are people and companies like SpaceX who are working to make it less true, one small step at a time. I’m optimistic too, both about Curiosity and about the future of space exploration in general.

  8. I’m cheering for my friend Ashwin just as much as I am for the Rover and NASA!  It’s extremely exciting!!!  He has done great work here; everyone from our home town is just pins and needles waiting for the good news!!!

  9. I know there’s little chance of extremely rapid results, but this could be quite a moment… more evidence of past life on Mars.  Imagine the universal freakout.

  10. I was unaware of my obligation to prepare for this event. I swear. I’m willing to do what needs to be done. Does it involve building a big clay model of Devils’ Tower?

    1. Olympus Mashed-Potato Mons. A “face on Mars” made from yams would be nice. Or a whole Cydonia buffet.

      Speaking of which, what’s Richard Hoagland’s take on this? It’s not passing too close to the Phobos Forbidden Zone is it?

      It does need a synchronized soundtrack.

  11. I’ll be watching JPL’s UStream as well as the Eyes on the Solar System simulation of the landing. I got to see this rover go to space, now I get to watch it land.

  12. The next rover mission landing will involve the simultaneous deployment of a pogo stick,  space elevator, trampoline, and atom bomb.

  13. One article today said the lander would be shooting video *during the landing*.  This was the first I’d heard of this, and kind of surprising given bandwidth considerations .. can anyone confirm, and maybe say when that would be available back here?

    Really hoping this works.

    1. Shooting or transmitting? It’s only live transmission that’s hard. Recording video to flash is easy these days, and makes sense.

       I can see why they’d want to shoot video for later viewing.

        1.  In the July 16th press conference, this was specifically asked and they estimated a few weeks to transmit the footage of the landing.

  14. “Get your ass to Mars!”

    I have to say that this sounds really complicated, but I’m sure that they ran multiple simulations of the  actions.  What I’m curious about (ha!) is what kind of redundancies they have build in. So say for example the parachute doesn’t slow them down enough, or during the sky crane maneuver they are coming in too fast. The ability to decide to do things differently based on suboptimal conditions. What is the decision tree for the CPU for the landing. Can it decide. “We are coming in too fast start the retro rockets sooner or longer something.  That is kind of a rules based decision tree that will need to look at and consider what to do instead.

    And if it doesn’t make it we will have more people saying, “Someone doesn’t want us to to Mars!

  15. Given the size of this thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Martians shot it down. In which case the mission will have to be declared a stupendous success having proven the existence of life on Mars without even landing.

  16. This is how you present space science to the public! Slick, exciting and on the edge. It seems to me Nasa hasn’t really done a very good job when it comes to presenting their projects to the public. The hours of live feeds are great for people already interested in space, but the general public need videos like this to get them interested in science in general and space science in particular.

    Can’t wait for the landing!

  17. We can build and transport in unmanned space vehicles unmanned computer controlled remotely operated from 6.2 bazillion miles away nuclear powered cars to Mars — but the closest we can get right here where it all starts from scratch on Earth are $60,000+ electric cars with half a ton of chemical and acid filled batteries in them.

    Ooookay then!

    Well, go NASA! USA! USA! USA! …or something.

    1.  We could happily have electric cars minus the lead acid batteries – if you didn’t mind the plutonium in the engine and traveling at a couple of meters a minute…

      (Which makes you wonder – if someone shot a ballistic object with a chunk of plutonium at us, we might get somewhat upset. Hope the Martians are forgiving – and that there is no such thing as a Martian cat).

      Stuff the Olympics – the real Human achievements are happening on Mars today.  Awesome stuff.

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