The Future Is Here
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Everything you need to know to catch the Curiosity rover landing

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

On August 5th, at 10:31 pm PDT, NASA will attempt to land Curiosity — a one-ton, six-wheel-drive, nuclear-powered super-laboratory — on the surface of Mars. It is the most scientifically advanced rover ever built. It will be the most technically impressive landing procedure ever attempted. You do not want to miss this.

Remember: the landing itself isn't happening until August 5th at 10:31 pm Pacific (that's 1:31 a.m., August 6 for your East Coasters). The rover is scheduled to enter the top of Mars' atmosphere at speeds in excess of 13,000 miles per hour, at which point it will decelerate, descend, and land on the planet's surface all within a span of just seven minutes.


NASA engineers call these "The Seven Minutes of Terror," and with good reason; Curosity's entry, descent and landing (EDL) is the most face-meltingly awesome, ambitious, and difficult we've ever attempted. Even more nerve-wracking: because it takes fourteen minutes for communications sent by Curiosity to reach Earth, the rover will have been on the surface of Mars for seven whole minutes before we have any idea if it's arrived safely or not. Just watch:

It's going to be freaking wild, people. Curiosity is going to be lowered to the planet's surface using a rocket-powered sky crane, for crying out loud. So come Sunday night, you'll want to be in one of four places:

1. Planetfest

If you're anywhere near Pasadena, CA, get thee to Planet Fest 2012. It's being hosted by JPL and The Planetary Society, Bill Nye Will be there, there's going to be an XCOR Lynx on display. Trust us, it'll be awesome. Not in Pasadena? Find out if there's another Planetfest Event being held near you.


2. New York City

If you're anywhere near New York City, you can gather with thousands upon thousands of your closest friends in Times Square to watch the landing live on the city's ginormous LED TV screen. The broadcast will begin Sunday night at at 11:30 p.m. and run until 4:00 a.m. Monday bright and early. Touchdown is scheduled for 1:31 in the morning.

3. Your Local Landing Party

Visit any one of hundreds of events being held around the country. Check with your local museum to see if they'll be hosting a landing party, or head over to NASA to see their complete listing of events. JPL Has another extensive list of events, organized by country and state.


4. The Internets!

NASA will be broadcasting the entire Curiosity landing via webcast beginning August 5 at 8:30 p.m. PDT / 11:30 p.m. EDT. Watch it on NASA TV.


Universe Today, Google, CosmoQuest and the SETI Institute are also sponsoring a Google+ Hangout featuring Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait, Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay, along with special guests. If you've never sat in on one of these G+ astronomy hangouts before, now's the perfect time check one out — you won't be disappointed. It's set to kick off on August 5th at 11:00 p.m. EDT and run through 3 a.m. EDT the morning of August 6th. You'll find more info on Universe Today.

Pre- and Post-landing Coverage

Starting tomorrow, NASA will be holding news briefings at JPL and broadcasting them live on NASA Television. The schedule of events is listed below, and is also available over at NASA. All times are PDT.

Thursday, Aug. 2
— 10 a.m. - Mission Science Overview News Briefing
— 11 a.m. - Mission Engineering Overview News Briefing

Friday, Aug. 3
— 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. - NASA Social

Saturday, Aug. 4
— 9:30 a.m. - Prelanding Update and Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) Overview News Briefing

Sunday, Aug. 5
— 9:30 a.m. - Final Prelanding Update News Briefing
— 3 p.m. - NASA Science News Briefing
— 8:30 p.m. to about 11 p.m. - Landing Commentary No. 1
— No earlier than 11:15 p.m. - Post-landing News Briefing

Monday, Aug. 6
— 12:30 to 1:30 a.m. - Landing Commentary No. 2
— 9 a.m. - Landing Recap News Briefing
— 4 p.m. - Possible New Images News Briefing

Tuesday, Aug. 7
— 10 a.m. - News Briefing

Wednesday, Aug. 8
— 10 a.m. - News Briefing

Thursday, Aug. 9
— 10 a.m. - News Briefing

Awesome photo of Bill Nye by Derek Heisler; Times Square via Wikimedia Commons; Top image and martian explorers via NASA