Seven minutes of terror.
It sounds like a Hollywood thriller, but the phrase describes the anxiety NASA is expecting as its car-sized robotic rover tries a tricky landing on Mars late Sunday.
Skimming the top of the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph, the Curiosity rover needs to brake to a stop — in seven minutes.
The rover is headed for a two-year mission to study whether Mars ever had the elements needed for microbial life.
Because of its heft, the 2,000-pound robot, which has many instruments designed by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, can’t land the way previous spacecraft did.