Sometime around 1:30 AM, Eastern time, tonight, will mark the the entrance of Curiosity into the Martian atmosphere, followed by a seven-minute descent that, assuming everything goes smoothly, should lead to a safe landing on our closest planetary neighbor. Given the fact that everything includes a few thousand programmed processes, or that say, the rover will begin its descent at a staggering 13,000-plus miles an hour, it seems only natural that this particular sequence has earned the moniker “seven minutes of terror”. Add to that the fact that it’s already traveled 350 million miles or so, and the fact that budget so far is just over $2.5 billion.
Unfathomably big numbers aside though, the mission has some pretty awesome objectives. Namely, Curiosity is designed to assess the habitability of Mars, via an investigation into its geology, climate and a host of other factors. Designed to occupy the red planet for a full Mars year, or 687 days, the rover boasts an unprecedented arsenal of instruments geared toward exploring and examining as many aspects of the planet’s terrain and environmental history possible. Maybe even more awesome is the fact that NASA will offer a live stream of the landing, beamed back to us a few hundred million miles away, via their website tonight. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be watching. Learn more about Curiosity here.