Curious about Curiosity? Here's info on where to watch!

By Phil Plait | August 1, 2012 11:00 am

At 05:31 UTC (01:31 Eastern US time) on August 6, the Mars Science Laboratory – commonly called Curiosity – will land on the Red Planet. Because Mars will be 250 million kilometers (150 million miles) from Earth at the time, this landing procedure is totally autonomous: pre-programmed, and without human intervention. It has to be, since it will take radio signals nearly 14 minutes to reach the lander!

However, we’ll be able to follow the progress of the lander, since it will be sending signals back to Earth during the complicated and, frankly, terrifying deceleration process and Rube Goldbergian sequence to get down to the surface.

If you want to watch the proceedings live, I have a few things you can do.

1) Fraser Cain, Pamela Gay, and I will be doing a Google+ Hangout on August 5th starting at 03:00 UTC on August 5/6 and running until 07:00 – note that for the US, this starts on the evening of the 5th at 23:00 Eastern time and runs through 03:00 in the morning. We plan on having special guests, a live feed from NASA, and more. The Hangout is being sponsored by Google itself, CosmoQuest, and the SETI Institute, which has a strong astrobiology mission and therefore is very interested in Mars. Our coverage will be complete, intense, awesome, and fun. Promise! There’s more info at Universe Today, and we have an events page set up on G+ to help you out. There’s also a Facebook events page, too! Use the #marshangout hashtag on Twitter to follow along, too.

2) You can always watch NASA TV. They’ve posted a schedule of events for media.

3) If you are in the Pasadena California area, then join the party! Literally: The Planetary Society is throwing a bash to celebrate and watch the landing at the Paseo Colorado – Garfield Promenade on Saturday, August 4. Attending will be TPS blogger (and big pal o’ mine) Emily Lakdawalla as well as Bill Nye (yes, THE Bill Nye). You can get more info on Emily’s blog, and get tickets online. If I could, I’d go there too! But I’ll be at home and quite busy myself (see #1 above).

4) JPL The Planetary Society is holding PlanetFest at the Pasadena Convention Center on August 4 and 5 – it’s again a celebration of planetary exploration. It looks like fun!

Art credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

Related Posts:

Wil Wheaton has Curiosity
Mars Attacks of the Show
Landing on Mars: Seven minutes of terror
Curiosity on its way to Mars!


Comments (35)

  1. Thanks for the info Phil, I came here specially to find this out. NASA TV will have to do then, since I’m kinda far away from USA.

  2. That is like the coolest thing I have ever seen.

    I’m wondering. . . what happens to the skycrane after it flies way?

  3. shawmutt

    I was pleasantly surprised to find a Curiousity game on my xbox live. It was free, and a simple little game, but pretty neat!

  4. RAF

    Curiousity game?….I’ll have to check that out….thanks for the “heads up”. :)

  5. JK

    For those in the Houston area, Space Center Houston is hosting a “seven minutes of terror” event. If you buy your ticket online it is only 4.99$ And you get a pancake breakfast too.

  6. RAF

    Oops…only if you have kinect…no wonder I didn’t know about this…

  7. James Earley

    In Tucson, some of us will be at the Sky Bar- an astronomy based bar (geek trivia and telescopes feeding the big screens) . They are hosting a Curiosity party- 8:30 till late.

  8. I myself also made a list of “all” the event a while back:

  9. Tom

    @2 d_b, I believe it flies on for several hundred yards and then crashes.

    Man, I really hope this is successful. Given the political/budget situation, NASA really needs this to work.

  10. Ian

    Is there a camera mounted on the Curiosity so we can see the landing footage later? That would be very epic and in these times it shouldn’t be complicated to do

  11. Barth

    Hey, Phil..!

    Is there any info you can give us poor sods who’ll be barely 1/3rd into their 12-hour overnight work shift, as to a good place to look for a complete, recorded, re-broadcast of any or all of the sources you’ve mentioned..?

    One lousy day later and I’d be sitting here, drinking my coffee in my ‘morning’ and watching as events unfolded live..suxx to be me.. ūüėõ

  12. Cory
    you can run the entire MSL approach simulation.
    It is awe inspiring

  13. Parachute, rockets, skycrane. As far as Rube Goldberg machines go, this one seems fairly simple. The only fully new part here is the skycrane.

    I hope it beats the odds!

  14. NeilNZ

    “August 5th starting at 03:00 UTC on August 5/6”
    For those in New Zealand, coverage is starting at 15:00 on August 6th. Very convenient time. :-)
    13:00 in Sydney.

  15. bb

    Hope there are no cats on mars.

  16. Robin

    Is the Google+ Hangout open/viewable to anyone, or does one have to be a Google+’er to see?

  17. Bwian

    There’s an event scheduled at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, but it looks like tickets are all sold out.

  18. Messier Tidy Upper

    Thanks for this, BA – shared. I’ll just add that Curiosity -the rover itself – has a facebook page too which I’ll be following this from as well as NASA-TV. Expect you can find that fb page via its NASA page. :-)

  19. Can someone explain why Curiosity will experience such high temperatures when coming down?
    I would have thought that because Mars¬ī it¬īs atmosphere is less dense than ours, the temps would be lower.

  20. #2 darth, #9 Tom:
    Correct. The skycrane flies away sideways to a safe distance, then crashes.

  21. Jon Hanford

    @10 Ian:

    “Is there a camera mounted on the Curiosity so we can see the landing footage later?”

    That would be the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI):

    (I’m really looking forward to seeing _that_ movie)

  22. Naomi

    Made a note on my desktop. 1 PM on Monday – start repeating ‘you can do it you can do it you can do it’ and rocking back and forth until Curiosity is safely confirmed to be on the ground. Ahhh!

    (I’m still a little disappointed it’s not going to Mawrth Vallis, I must admit. Did a paper on it.)

  23. @Robin – Anyone will be able to see the Hangout, it’s just like a normal Live event on YouTube.

  24. Timothy from Boulder

    In Boulder, Colorado the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics will be holding an MSL landing “Pajama Party” with talks by Dr. Bruce Jakosky and Dr. David Brain (PI and researcher, respectively, for the upcoming MAVEN Mars mission) starting at 9:30 p.m. on August 5.

    Information at

  25. Gib

    In relation to Ian’s question, and Jon Hanford’s answer, I have a followup.

    The MARDI seems to be a camera mounted on the rover itself, pointing down, so we can watch that footage at some point. But, is there any other footage available from any other cameras? Is there an old orbiter nearby that will be able to watch the proceedings? Is there any camera on the descent stage? Is there any camera on the rover that will be turned on and watching the descent stage fly away?

    And how long will it take before the MARDI or other footage is downloaded and available for our viewing pleasure?

    Of course I’ll be excited to get the tweet that says Curiosity is down and healthy, but I’m itching for actual footage.

  26. Lars Bruchmann

    Does anyone know if any channels, Science Channel, or similar will be broadcasting the landing? Cox in Oklahoma does not carry NASA TV in spite of my numerous emails, letters and phone calls. I can watch online but I would rather be at the Google hangout. CNN seems to have stopped showing space-y things. Fox News covered the last shuttle landing and in the 10 minutes I watched told at least one lie about Obama: He cancelled the shuttle. Wow…

  27. Chris

    What kind of footage can we expect to see during the landing?

  28. Justin

    Ames research in the bay area is also hosting an event. Tickets may be available for their free event.

  29. If the cam looks downwards, you¬īll be watching Mars getting closer and closer and closer and closer and closer and closer and closer at about 5fps and then DUST.
    And then they switch to glorious wide view cams.
    And the fun begins!

  30. gib

    I just got one answer about if an orbiter might snap a photo of Curiosity on its way down. The rover just tweeted:
    MarsCuriosity: @akwebguru If we’re very lucky, MRO might get a shot of me on entry with the parachute deployed

  31. Kmc

    I have been a keen follower of mars events and curiosity just got me curious !I don’t know how many people are following these events in my country Zambia.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar