This video was filmed on October 24, 2012 as part of the National Geographic Live! Lecture series at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C.

A car-sized rover named Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012. This particular rover, launched in November 2011, was created by the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. Curiosity was designed to assess whether Mars was ever habitable. Did Mars ever have an environment able to support small life forms called microbes?


  • Director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Charles Elachi gives a behind-the-scenes look into "Seven Minutes of Terror," the video documenting the unprecedented and historic Mars rover landing in August 2012.

Strategies for Using Video in a Variety of Learning Environments

  • Have students preview several of the videos and choose the one they find most inspiring. Have students describe in writing a conversation they might have with the speaker(s).
  • Freeze the video on a relevant image. Have students observe details in the still image and jot down predictions of what the full video might address. Discuss students’ ideas before and after watching the video.
  • Pose an open-ended question before students watch the video, and have them discuss their ideas before and after in small groups.
  • Have students determine what they think the key message of this video is. Was the speaker effective in getting his or her message across?
  • Show a short clip to engage students during class, and then have students watch the full video at home and write a paragraph responding to the content or a question you give them.
  • Have students note statements that represent facts or opinions, including where it’s difficult to tell the difference. What further research might help distinguish facts and opinions? How might the speaker’s viewpoint compare with others’ viewpoints about a topic?

study and investigation of unknown places, concepts, or issues.


fourth planet from the sun, between Earth and Jupiter.

Mars Exploration Rover

one of two robots (Spirit and Opportunity) sent by NASA to explore the surface and atmosphere of Mars.


large, spherical celestial body that regularly rotates around a star.


vehicle that remotely explores a region, such as the surface of a moon, planet, or other celestial body.

solar system

the sun and the planets, asteroids, comets, and other bodies that orbit around it.


vehicle designed for travel outside Earth's atmosphere.