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: