NASA has described the descent and landing of the rover Curiosity, expected to reach Mars Aug. 5, as "seven minutes of terror" for the difficulty of the task.
To get gamers interested in the mission, NASA has collaborated with Microsoft to create the Mars Rover Landing game, available for download for free via Xbox Live.
"We went to some pains to reflect some authentic details in the game experience," Jeff Norris of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., 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."
In the game, players' body movements, sensed by the Xbox 360's Kinect motion controller, will 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 said.
The hope is the game will expose "kids of all ages to, frankly, how cool this stuff is in terms of otherworldly exploration and the science behind it," McCarthy said. "It has such a beautiful sort of tension and emotion naturally to it. It is not dry."