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NASA's free video game for Xbox Live: 'Mars Rover Landing' (+video)

Three weeks before the Mars Curiosity rover is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet, NASA had unveiled a new video game that takes players through the spacecraft's 'seven minutes of terror.'

As a robotic geologist approaches Mars, the mission program director says the rover's landing will be risky.
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NASA revealed a new video game today (July 16), one that celebrates the Aug. 5 landing of its huge Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.

The game, called "Mars Rover Landing," is produced in collaboration with Microsoft and plays on the Xbox 360 system using the Kinect motion sensor. It's available free of charge in the Xbox Live Marketplace and Kinect Central, officials said.

"Mars Rover Landing" allows players to take control of Curiosity's spacecraft as it streaks through the Red Planet's atmosphere on a harrowing journey that mission engineers have dubbed "seven minutes of terror."

At the end, a rocket-powered sky crane lowers the rover to the Martian surface on cables, then flies off to crash-land intentionally a safe distance away.

"Families can get a taste of the daring that's involved in this, just landing this mission on the surface," Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, told reporters today. "It's going to be very similar to the way the team actually is going to do that." [The Best (And Worst) Mars Landings in History]

The game is an outreach vehicle, McCuistion added, an attempt to raise awareness of Curiosity's mission and NASA's planetary exploration endeavors in a more general sense.

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