Mars Curiosity Landing: A Cheat Sheet

Curiosity during its daring descent. Credit: NASA/JPL

After a spectacular launch and a long cruise through the black reaches of space, the Mars Science Laboratory—better known as the Curiosity rover—is set for the most dangerous part of its mission: the landing in Gale Crater. Curiosity is the biggest rover ever sent to Mars, and carries the most advanced suite of instruments, in order to discover the story of the planet’s habitability.

Use this page as a quick guide to the event:
Basics   |   Join Online or In Person   |   Mars Resources


 

Basics

Landing time:

Approximately 10:31 p.m. PDT on Sunday, August 5th
(Aug. 6 at 1:31 a.m. EDT | Aug. 6 at 5:31 a.m. UTC | about 3 p.m. local Mars time)

Target:

Gale Crater, near the Martian equator. Specifically, Aeolis Palus, a relatively flat area near the base of Aeolis Mons, the crater’s central mountain, also informally called Mt. Sharp.

Gale Crater info | Gale Crater images | How the site was chosen | How the target was narrowed

Distance from Earth to Mars at time of landing:

248 million kilometers (154 million miles)
13.8 minutes light travel time
See where Curiosity is right now (via Eyes on the Solar System)

Sequence of events during entry, descent and landing (EDL):

  • Guided Entry – As it enters the Martian atmosphere at about 21,000 kph (13,000 mph) the spacecraft is controlled by small rockets and protected by a heat shield.
  • Parachute Descent – The spacecraft is slowed by a large parachute.
  • Powered Descent – After separating from the heat shield and the backshell, another set of rockets further slows and controls the spacecraft’s descent.
  • Sky Crane – The sky crane system lowers the rover itself on cables down to a soft landing on the surface. The sky crane then flies away.

The EDL sequence. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA/JPL

Total time from top of atmosphere to full stop on the ground: about seven minutes. Orbiting spacecraft at Mars will relay relatively simple signals from the rover to Earth during the landing process. Pictures will come later.

More information & videos:

EDL details | “7 Minutes of Terror” video | “Mars in a Minute” videos | Post-landing activities


 

Social Gatherings, Conferences & Online Events

 

Places to Watch Live Landing Coverage Online

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) participation site
See where to watch, find lists of local events, see interactive features

NASA TV
Online or on TV. Coverage starts at 8:30 pm Pacific Time August 5 (03:30 6 Aug GMT)

Virtual landing party
From Universe Today, Google, the SETI Institute, and CosmoQuest

Third Rock Radio
This NASA-run Internet radio station will broadcast audio during the landing.

 

Official Agency In-person Socials & Conferences

Social media users: @MarsCuriosity is a good reference for the mission itself; #MSL is the hashtag we’re using for the landing event as a whole. Additionally, for folks not at the press conferences and media briefings, NASA will be taking questions off social media as time permits. Ask a question during the live broadcasts using #AskNASA.

NASA social at JPL
Pasadena, CA | Aug. 3-5 (registration closed June 8th)
hashtags: #NASASocial   #MSL

NASA socials at various NASA centers
Various locations | Aug. 3 (registration closed July 3)
hashtags: #NASASocial   #MSL
Facebook pages for attendees: overall | Ames | Glenn | Goddard | Johnson | Kennedy | Langely

Canadian Space Agency Tweetup
Saint-Hubert, Québec | Aug. 6 (registration closed July 3)
hashtags: #CSATweetup   #MSL

NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity Landing Educator Conference
Pasadena, CA | Aug. 3-5
(registration closed July 13)

Full Info on NASA Multi-site Socials
Agendas and participants, NASATweet.com, a community-managed wiki site for NASA and other space-related Socials/Tweetups.

Flickr Group
For photos from the launch and the landing events.

 

Community Events

Yuri’s Night Explore Mars Events
Various locations | August 5
Yuri’s Night will be providing registration services and logistical support for celebrations and events to be held around the world on August 5.

NASA’s event map
Landing events in the US

Community map of events in the US & Canada
Coded by type

Rogue Tweetup – Pasadena
Pasadena, CA | Aug. 3-5
Everyone welcome; all participants can join in the planning. Many are planning to attend one of the events below.
(hashtags: #MSL   #RogueTweetup   #RogueCA)
Facebook page | Activities doc | Roster doc | Housing doc

Rogue Tweetup – Space Center Houston
Houston, TX | Aug. 4-5
Facebook page

Planetary Society’s PlanetFest
(hashtags: #Planetfest #Marsparty)
Pasadena, CA | Aug. 4-5
Speakers will include Bill Nye, Jim Bell, Chris Carberry, Andrew Chaiken, Charles Elachi and many more.
Venue/parking info: Pasadena Convention Center

Mars Society Convention
Pasadena, CA | Aug. 3-5
Speakers will include Buzz Aldrin, Jim Green, John Grotzinger, and many more.

National Air and Space Museum’s “Mars Day!”
Washington, DC | July 13
(hashtag: #MARSDAY)
This annual event enabled visitors to interact with staff scientists and experts from the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History and NASA. MSL science team member John Grant and planetary geologist Jim Zimbelman was on hand to answer questions.

Times Square
New York | 11:30 p.m. EDT Aug. 5 – 4 a.m. EDT Aug. 6
The Toshiba Vision screen in New York City’s Times Square will become the largest East Coast location for the public to see live mission coverage.


 

Mars Resources

Official sites:

Official Mars Curiosity and other NASA social media:

Curiosity News

Other Good Info Sources

 

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Your lead robot rider since 2005. Writer, photographer, science advocate. billdunford.com

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