Nasa researchers working on a mission to Mars have described the 'seven minutes of terror' they are forced to endure at the mission's most critical stage.

The $2.5bn mission is attempting to land the car-sized Curiosity rover on the surface of the Red planet, where it will explore and look for signs of life for just under two Earth years.

But from the time the craft begins its descent to the planet to the time it lands - sometime on 5 August - the scientists have to wait seven minutes to learn its fate.

The precarious landing procedure is far from a certain, and similar missions have faltered at this last stage.

The craft will have to slow from 13,000mph to zero, while dealing with temperatures up to 1,600 C.

Scientists hope it will decelerate to 1,000mph in the atmosphere, before deploying a parachute which will - hopefully - bring it closer to 200mph.

At that point the capsule will fire rockets to detach itself from the parachute, find a landing spot, and lower the large rover on a 21-foot-long tether.

Take a look at the frankly terrifying complexity in the video above.