No, it isn’t a new horror film coming out this fall. NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is scheduled to touch down at 22:31 PDT on August 5, 2012. From the time Curiosity enters the Martian atmosphere until touchdown only seven minutes will pass, but radio signals will take fourteen minutes to reach earth. So, as stated in the video “When we first get word that we’ve touched the top of the atmosphere, the vehicle has been alive, or dead, on the surface, for at least seven minutes.”
A lot has to happen during Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL), and all of it has to run completely autonomously. Everything needs to work go flawlessly, including the radical, new and untested, ‘skycrane’ landing technique. It is quite an audacious mission, and given all that has to go right during EDL and the fact that we won’t know if it worked, or not, until it is all over, it is understandable why EDL has been dubbed the Seven Minutes of Terror.
Check out the video, it is really well done. And nice use of the Inception music.