Curiosity: Will It Kill Curiosity?

On August 5th* NASA's latest rover, Curiosity, will touch down on Mars. At least, that's the hope: a touch down instead of a splat, crash, whump or crunch down.

One of the biggest problems facing Curiosity is that it will take around 7 minutes after hitting the atmosphere to land on the surface of Mars. That's not the problem; this is: It takes about 14 minutes for signals from Mars to get back to Earth. This means that by the time NASA receive Curiosity's "hi folks, I'm just entering the atmosphere right now, see you in 7!" message, it has already either been sitting smugly on the surface thinking how clever it is, spreading bits of itself over a wide area, or dying in a mangled mess in its own crater for seven minutes. And NASA's brainboxes won't know which it is for another 14.

Here's a video about how it's supposed to work:

* It's 2012, for anyone reading this in the future. Or the past, I suppose.


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