If everything goes as planned Curiosity will literally hit the ground running – wheels down and ready to roll!
All of this – from first hitting the Martian atmosphere to the actual landing, will take only about seven minutes, which the Curiosity folks have dubbed “Seven Minutes of Terror”. Worse yet, because the radio signals take a while to travel from Mars to Earth we will actually not even know whether or not everything went as planned until about 14 minutes later! Talk about suspense! Because of this huge time delay there is no help from Earth – the computer has to figure it all out by itself and land the rover safely.
Godspeed, Curiosity! You go, buddy, and hopefully we’ll see you after the touchdown!
Learn more about Curiosity and its curious landing at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/