At NASA they've called it "Seven Minutes of Terror" -- the white-knuckle moments as the new Curiosity rover, scheduled to land on Mars on the night of Aug. 5, goes tearing into the Martian atmosphere and, engineers hope, lands safely seven minutes later.
NASA made a computer-animated video of the landing sequence, and found it has a hit on its hands. With almost a month to go until landing, the video has been viewed more than half a million times on YouTube alone, and it's appeared on countless other websites as well.
"We've got literally seven minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere to the surface of Mars -- going from 13,000 miles an hour to zero, in perfect sequence, perfect choreography, perfect timing," said Tom Rivellini, a NASA engineer who appears in the video.
NASA has been very good at visualizing its robotic missions, and, in fact, did similar videos (with the same title) for previous Mars landings in 2004 and 2008. But none went viral the way Curiosity's has.
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