Stephen Colbert offers a tip of the hat to NASA's Mars Rover (+video)
NASA administrator and veteran astronaut John Grunsfeld appeared on the Colbert Report on Wednesday, where he discussed the planned landing of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, which is scheduled to land on the Red Planet on Sunday night.
The huge Mars Science Laboratory, also known as the Curiosity rover, is slated to touch down on the Red Planet on Aug. 5 at 10:31 p.m. PDT (1:31 a.m. EDT Aug. 6; 0531 GMT). The rover's thrilling descent through the Martian atmosphere is so complex that it has been nicknamed "the seven minutes of terror."
John Grunsfeld, a former veteran astronaut and NASA's associate administrator for science missions, spoke to Colbert about the Curiosity rover's landing Wednesday (Aug. 1), during an appearance on Comedy Central's hit late-night faux-conservative news show "The Colbert Report."
With the help of an animated video of Curiosity's landing, Grunsfeld detailed the steps involved in the rover's harrowing journey to the surface of Mars.
"As it enters the atmosphere, it will start slowing down," Grunsfeld explained. "It will reach about 10 Gs of acceleration."
Before setting its wheels down on the Red Planet, a supersonic parachute, followed by a rocket-powered sky crane, will help slow the rover's speed from more than 13,000 mph (21,000 kilometers per hour) to zero in only seven minutes. [Photos: Stephen Colbert Visits NASA]