Thu August 2, 2012

Watch NASA's Curiosity Land On Mars in Times Square; Or Boulder, Or Denver. Your Choice.

NASA's Curiosity Rover will be touching down on the Red Planet Sunday, August 5th at 11:15 p.m. MDT. If you happen to be in Times Square you can catch mission coverage on the big screens. Closer to Colorado, maybe it's time for a pajama party.

Artist's rendering of the space crane manuever.
Credit NASA

Why the excitement? Two words: space crane. This isn't just another robot rover landing on another planet. As NPR's Joe Palca reported last August:

John Grotzinger is principal investigator for the new rover. He says it's not going to bounce down to Mars the way the rovers Spirit and Opportunity did.

"The Mars exploration rovers basically crash-landed — softly with air bags," he says. "Mars Science Laboratory is so large that we need an active propulsion system."

In other words, a rocket-powered soft landing. It's a new system that involves a space crane that lowers the rover to the ground on a tether.

The Curiosity weighs 1,982 pounds and is about the size of small car, or a Ford truck. It's an engineering marvel to land something that size on a distant planet that's only 154 million miles away.

If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to watch NASA's Seven Minutes of Terror. It can be considered the action movie description of the space crane and the landing.

NASA announced that live mission coverage of the landing will be shown on the Toshiba Vision big screens in New York's Times Square. There are some events in Colorado to consider if you won't be on the East Coast this weekend:

If an event isn't in the cards, you can follow the live mission coverage via NASA's live stream with or without commentary or you can follow the rover on Twitter.