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NYC to Host Mars Rover Viewing Party

As NASA's Mars Curiosity nears its final destination, Earthlings prepare to watch.

 

The Mars rover Curiosity is on course to land in Times Square Saturday night.

But don't worry, the car-sized robot hasn't wandered 152 million miles off its trajectory. NASA has arranged viewing parties all across the country for the public to watch the all-or-nothing touchdown of their most ambitious Mars mission yet. It's biggest? In the center of Manhattan.

But like any good New Yorker, you'll have to stay up late. The show, which will be shown on the Times Square Toshiba Vision Screen located beneath the New Year's Eve Ball, begins at 11:30 p.m. with touchdown expected at around 1:30 a.m. That means New Yorkers and visitors will be able to watch the historic landing on the biggest display involved in the event..

Curiosity, also know as the Mars Science Laboratory, has a pretty exciting time ahead of it. It's detailed in NASA's aptly named video called "7 Minutes of Terror."

The complex spacecraft encapsulating the rover must deal with the 16,000 degrees of heat generated by entering the planet's atmosphere at 13,000 mph. A parachute will slow it down.

It will all happen in seven minutes - on autopilot.

Because of the time delay caused by Mars' current distance of more than 150 million miles, scientists and viewers around the world won't know if the landing has been a success or failure for another seven minutes.

Talk about a nail-biter.

The real work doesn't begin until Curiosity is on the ground. The rover, which is the size of a SUV, will search for signs of microscopic life in the Martian soil. And if the most optimistic hopes for the mission come true, this machine could finally answer one of the greatest questions ever asked.

Are we alone?

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