The video: The Curiosity rover touched down on Mars on Aug. 5 in a high-stakes gamble NASA team members called "seven minutes of terror." The choreographed landing saw the $2.5 billion nuclear-powered space lab go from 13,000 miles an hour to zero in nearly the blink of an eye, in maneuvers that had to be crucially automated beforehand. High-definition footage taken from aboard the Curiosity's MARDI descent camera is finally available, giving eager space fans a glimpse of what it's like to descend to the Red Planet's surface. (Watch it below.) First you see the rover's protective heat shield flung off. Then Curiosity hovers in place with a parachute. Finally, the 1-ton space lab is lowered by "sky crane" cables, kicking up dust and pebbles as it finally reaches solid ground. "We trained ourselves for eight years to think the worst all the time," said Curiosity lead engineer Miguel San Martin. Thankfully, the touchdown went off without a hitch.
The reaction: This is the best landing video yet, says Adam Mann at Wired. The footage was stitched together by visual effects editor Daniel Luke Fitch, and all but a few frames are high-def. The footage was touched up to reduce noise, balance color, and sharpen images, to formulate a vivid re-creation of "the hair-raising landing" that, if you're anything like me, will make you "clutch at your armrest." It's completely captivating, says Caleb A. Scharf at Scientific American. "Every so often something comes along that just blows away everything you've seen before. This is one of those things." When Curiosity first made landfall, NASA released a few low-resolution time-lapse videos. Those were already "very cool." But the clarity of a world some 350 million miles away shown here? It's absolutely breathtaking. Take a look:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How the South's ugly racial history is haunting ObamaCare
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- 10 things you need to know today: October 31, 2014
- If Democrats abandon immigration reform after Tuesday's likely loss, they will turn 2016 into a debacle
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Feast your eyes on this beautiful linguistic family tree
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- What if Leo Strauss was right?
Subscribe to the Week