NASA Releases Low-Res Video Of Curiosity’s Mars Descent [VIDEO]

By Amir Khan on August 7, 2012 9:21 AM EDT

Curiosity
Curiosity, NASA's largest and most advanced rover ever to be sent to another planet, touched down on Mars early Monday morning without any incidents. (Photo: Creative Commons)

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NASA's Curiosity rover captured the last two minutes of its harrowing descent towards Mars on video, and on Tuesday, NASA released the low-res version of that video, giving us a sneak-peak of the craft landing on the red planet.

While the organization is planning on releasing the full, high-res video of the landing, NASA officials said it would take some time for the frames to be sent back to Earth. However, Michael Malin, the chief scientist for the rover, told USA Today the full video "will be just exquisite."

The $2.5 billion project is the "Super Bowl of planetary exploration," Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters, said. The mission will last for one Martian year -- approximately 2 Earth years -- but scientists hope the mission will last far longer than that.

Seven minutes before landing, the Mars Science Laboratory began its descent on to the red planet. Falling at 13,200 MPH, the rover ejected weights and shifted its balance to become more wing-like. Then, small thrusters put it through a series of S-turns to slow its descent.

Curiosity's heat shield protected it from temperatures up to 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Approximately 7 miles above the Mars surface, the rover deployed its parachute and drifted down. At 1:32 a.m. EST, NASA officials received confirmation that the rover made it safe and sound.

"It looks, at least to my eyeballs, that we landed on a nice flat spot," Adam Steltzner, the engineer in charge of drawing up the landing, told NBC News. "Beautiful, really beautiful,"

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