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Friday, July 27, 2012

Mars Craft Nears 'Seven Minutes Of Terror'

Nasa is making final preparations for the dramatic landing on Mars of its most sophisticated-ever planetary explorer.

The car-sized Curiosity rover is on course to land within a 12-mile target zone in the Gale Crater, where it will begin searching for evidence that the planet was once able to support life.

Touchdown is scheduled for 6:31am on August 6.

In order to reach the surface safely, Nasa has devised a landing procedure that could have come from a sci-fi movie.

The space agency describes the manoeuvre as "Curiosity's seven minutes of terror".

Engineer Adam Steltzner: "Sometimes when we look at it, it looks crazy."

The spacecraft carrying Curiosity is expected to hit the upper atmosphere of Mars at a speed of 13,200mph.

It will then rapidly lose speed with a series of steep S-curves, similar to those used by the Shuttle.

At an altitude of seven miles, still travelling at 1,000mph, it will deploy the strongest parachute ever made to slow it further. Read More