Alec Hamilton, Assistant Producer, WNYC News
Alec Hamilton is an Assistant Producer in the WNYC newsroom. She produces Morning Edition and starts her work day very, very early.
New Yorkers who want to witness the historic landing Sunday of the Mars Planetary Rover Curiosity can do so from Times Square.
The Toshiba Vision screen will broadcast live NASA coverage of Mission Control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the rover lands on the surface of the Red planet. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night, with the rover actually scheduled to land at 1:31 a.m. Monday morning.
NASA spokesperson Sarah Ramsey says this will be NASA's largest robotic planetary mission.
"We're NASA, we do big things." she said. "But this is the largest rover that we've ever put on Mars. This is a car-sized rover."
It is also the hardest mission ever attempted in the history of robotic planetary exploration. The spacecraft carrying the Curiosity will have just seven minutes to slow from 13,200 mph to just under 2 mph.
For comparison, Ramsey explained it’s “like driving 65 miles an hour on a freeway and coming to a complete stop in 2.1 seconds."
Because it takes 14 minutes for signals to travel from Mars to Earth, the unmanned spacecraft is programmed to land itself. NASA scientists are referring to the landing as the "Seven Minutes of Terror."
Because there are not cameras on Mars already to record the landing, viewers will not see the images taken by the rover until after it lands, but NASA says if all goes well, Curiosity's first images should be transmitted before the live feed goes off the screen at 4 am.
Curiosity is scheduled to spend two years exploring and learning about the planet. It will investigate an area inside the Gale Crater that is believed to have once had moisture, to determine whether an environment that could maintain microbial life may have once existed.
Those who wish to hear as well as see the landing mission can listen as well. The online station Third Rock Radio will also stream audio of the event, which can be listened to on smartphones and tablets through the Tunein mobile app.
If you can't make it to Times Square, watch the live stream here: