Land The Mars Curiosity Rover On Mars Through Xbox Live
July 17, 2012

Land The Mars Curiosity Rover On Mars Through Xbox Live

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A game just released by Microsoft gives users an experience that NASA engineers will have to deal with in real life: landing the new Curiosity rover on the Red Planet.

Microsoft created the Mars Rover Landing game and made it available for download for free on Monday through Xbox Live.

"We went to some pains to reflect some authentic details in the game experience," Jeff Norris of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory told USA Today. "And we are hoping that people get a little bit of a taste of what we all are going to be going through late on the night of Aug. 5."

Engineers at NASA have called the upcoming landing attempt "seven minutes of terror" because of the difficult task the engineers have ahead of them.

During the Mars Rover Landing game, players use body movements, read by the Xbox 360'x Kinect motion controller, to control the craft and attempt to land it safely on Mars.

"We've tried to simulate that heart-pounding, sweat-dripping seven minutes using Kinect and using users' control of their bodies to get the landing right," Microsoft's Dave McCarthy told USA Today.

The game simulates the three stages of Curiosity's landing, which includes taking the craft from 13,000 mph to about 1.7 mph.

During the landing, a supersonic parachute must be deployed properly, and the heat shield must be jettisoned during the descent.

Rocket engines then have to be deployed prior to the lowering of the tethered Curiosity rover to the surface. After this stage, the remainder of the craft must be flown away before the rover lands to prevent a dust cloud that could damage it.

"This is one of the most tense and nail-biting periods of time that any of us face because during that time we're waiting to see if all the work that has been put into not only the entry, descent and landing system," Norris told USA Today, "but (also) into the vehicle itself pays off and produces for us a healthy rover on the surface of Mars."

Players will be using the positioning of their aims, hands and body to control the rover and how it lands. They will be scored on how well they complete the three phases.

"We hope that through partnering on the Mars Rover experience, we spark interest and excitement among the next generation of scientists and technologists,"  Walid Abu-Habda, corporate vice president, Developer & Platform Evangelism, at Microsoft, said in a prepared statement.