NASA's Mars rover "Curiosity" scheduled to land on Mars
NASA's Mars rover "Curiosity" is expected to land on the red planet early Monday morning. But despite the long journey it's already taken, NASA scientists are particularly worried about just seven minutes of the trip.
After an eight month, 325 million mile journey through space, the one ton rover will hit Mars' atmosphere at some 13,000 miles per hour.
"We are about to land a small compact car on the surface with a truck load of instruments. This is a pretty amazing feat that's getting ready to happen," said Doug Mc Cuistion, the director of the Mars Exploration Program.
The rover has to hit a specific spot; a place NASA thinks could have hints of past or present life. A precision landing is key. On one side of the landing location is a mountain while the other side features a crater wall.
Scientists call it the "seven minutes of terror", as it's the amount of time Curiosity will take to come through the atmosphere and either crash or land safely.
Adam Stelzner, the Mars Science Lab team leader, added, "A whole bunch of stuff has to work right for us to make it to the surface of Mars...I am rationally confident. I am emotionally terrified."
Every component of Curiosity was tested over and over. The project has been in the works for a decade, but it is still a gamble - a $2.5 billion gamble.