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If you are a space geek like me and tuned in to the latest NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) press conference, you probably weren’t expecting anything unusual either. Surprise! The last person on the panel, Jeff Norris of JPL, introduced the fruit of a NASA-Microsoft partnership: Mars Rover Landing for Microsoft Xbox Kinect. (USA Today snagged an early interview with the Microsoft developers.)
The game uses body motions to take you through the “seven minutes of terror” landing sequence for the MSL to release the Mars Curiosity rover (if you haven’t seen the video, go watch it now!). In a likely hat-tip to San Diego Comic-Con, NASA News/Media intern Danielle Roosa even demonstrated the game live from the press conference audience!
Nasa might not be able to follow the progress of its big Mars rover all the way to the surface when it attempts to land on the planet on 6 August (GMT). The Curiosity vehicle is aiming for a deep depression known as Gale Crater. The US space agency will be tracking the descent with satellites, but its prime craft for the task may not now be in the correct place in the sky. Engineers have been tackling a fault on the Odyssey satellite and it is no longer in the best observational orbit. Unless it can be moved back in the next three weeks, Nasa will lose signal to the rover just as it is about to touch down.