Nightly News | August 05, 2012
>>> in a couple of hours while millions of americans are fast asleep something will take place that is just as daring in its own way as our original moon landing . overnight tonight nasa is going to try to pull off the equivalent of dropping a car on to the surface of mars. we should know before too long if it all worked. our report tonight from nbc's tom costelo.
>> reporter: nasa 's newest rover is about to land on the surface. it all begins with a maneuver that looks like something out of a science fiction movie .
>> is it risky? landing on mars is always risky.
>> reporter: it will raise the temperature on the heat shield to 1,600 degrees.
>> it is seven minutes of terror because we have literally seven minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere to the surface of mars going from 13,000 miles per hour to 0.
>> reporter: the mission made more exciting by dramatic animation and story telling on nasa 's website. unlike previous missions that depended on balloons to cushion the landing this time a giant space crane will take over desnding through the atmosphere and then gently lowering them on to the surface. if curiosity and the science land come down too hard the mission could be a $2.5 million bust.
>> it is the hardest nasa robotic mission ever attempted in the history of exploration of mars.
>> reporter: the landing zone is in a crater about the size of a los angeles basin . nasa picked it because it is one of the lowest places on mars where water may have accumulated. nasa has found more water on mars than ever thought possible. so was life ever on mars.
>> we may find one thing here and one there.
>> reporter: they are looking for the building blocks of life , water, energy and carbon. curiosity will spend two years looking for the evidence but it must first survive a landing that would be a rough ride for even the most seasoned astronauts.