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NASA Langley Playing Big Part in Mars “Seven Minutes of Terror” Landing

Hampton, Va. – When the Mars Science Laboratory enters the atmosphere of the red planet this weekend, engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center will experience the thrill-ride of their lives.
Langley, one of several NASA centers engaged in the mission, is the agency lead for modeling and simulation of the spacecraft prior to launch. Millions of simulations were performed leading up to the entry, descent and landing phase – the so-called “Seven Minutes of Terror” that determines success or failure.
Touchdown of the Curiosity rover being carried inside the spacecraft is scheduled for 1:31 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6.
In addition to Langley’s role in the Entry, Landing and Descent (EDL) phase, other contributions include:

Mars Heat Shield
Credits: NASA/JPL

Installation of MEDLI instruments that will measure temperature and pressure during MSL’s descent. Credit: Lockheed Martin

  • Development of instruments embedded in the heat shield that will measure temperature and pressure during descent;
  • Assistance in design of the parachute that will slow the spacecraft during descent; and
  • A mini-computer on Curiosity that will command a rock-blasting laser so scientists can study their composition.

Curiosity will be looking for signs that Mars once was – or still is – a habitable place for life as we know it.
News media are invited to interview Langley members of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team. To do so, please contact Michael Finneran at (757) 344-4611 or
In addition, Langley’s official visitor center, the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, Va., will host two Mars-related events:

For more information about the mission, go to:
NASA Langley MSL page:
NASA MSL page:
For more information about Langley go to
The Mars Science Laboratory mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Curiosity was designed, developed and assembled at JPL.

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Michael Finneran