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'Star Trek' actors star in new Mars rover landing videos (+video)

William Shatner and Wil Wheaton, the 'Star Trek' icons who portrayed Captain Kirk and Wesley Crusher, appear in two new NASA videos promoting the Curiosity Mars rover, which is scheduled to land on Mars on Aug. 5.

By Denise / July 31, 2012

"Star Trek" actor William Shatner narrates a NASA video about the Mars rover Curiosity.



How do you get people excited about a Mars rover that will attempt to land on the Red Planet in five days? You enlist the help of "Star Trek" icons Captain James T. Kirk and Wesley Crusher.

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William Shatner and the Grand Entrance: As NASA prepares for Curiosity rover landing on Mars, William Shatner shares this thrilling story of NASA's hardest planetary science mission to date. The video titled, "Grand Entrance," guides viewers from entry through descent, and after landing.

Actors William Shatner and Wil Wheaton, two stars who made their mark in different installments of the hugely popular "Star Trek" television series, narrate two new NASA videos about the agency's Mars rover, Curiosity, which is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet in less than a week.

After a roughly 8.5-month journey through space, Curiosity is scheduled to touch down on the Martian surface on Aug. 5 at 10:31 p.m. PDT (1:31 a.m. EDT Aug. 6; 0531 GMT).

Shatner, who played the legendary Captain Kirk in the original "Star Trek" TV series, provides the voice-over for one video, while Wheaton, who memorably portrayed the boy genius Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," narrates the other. Since their turns on the hit series, Shatner and Wheaton have become pop culture icons thanks to legions of fans around the world who affectionately nickname themselves "Trekkies."

The NASA videos, both titled "Grand Entrance," detail the stages of the Curiosity rover's entry, descent and landing on Mars. The two versions are almost identical, but with both actors adding their own characteristic flair. [Video: William Shatner Describes Mars Rover Landing]

"Shatner and Wheaton are mavericks in inspiring film, TV and social media audiences about space," Bert Ulrich, NASA's multimedia liaison for film and TV collaborations, said in a statement. "NASA is thrilled to have them explain a difficult landing sequence in accessible terms that can be understood by many. Thanks to their generous support, Mars exploration will reach Tweeters, Trekkies and beyond!"

In the videos, Shatner and Wheaton describe the intricate details of Curiosity's harrowing journey to the Martian surface.

When Curiosity reaches Mars, the 1-ton rover will be lowered to the surface by a rocket-powered sky crane. This contraption will help slow the spacecraft's speed from about 13,200 mph (about 21,250 kilometers per hour) to zero in only seven minutes. This thrilling entry, descent and landing process is nicknamed "the seven minutes of terror" because of its complexity.

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