Give NASA some credit, without a whole lot to work with, a whole lot of people are suddenly excited by the new rover’s landing thanks to some elementary branding.
“Seven minutes of terror.” It’s not the cleverest piece of marking out there, but summer is a boring time and NASA hasn’t done much marketing before, so it worked. Everyone is putting up the video and staying glued to their seats as if this were an actual manned mission.
If JPL pulls it off, good. NASA has been all but dismantled and it could use some positive publicity. Politicians may fund NASA based on their own district priorities, but having people show interest in the mission makes it more likely that the White House and some key Senators will decide that having a functioning space agency around may give their image a boost.
And the almost clever part of “Seven minutes of terror” is that if they blow it, and it’s entirely possible that they will, the slogan will act as a justification for it. By emphasizing how daring and difficult the landing is, no one can lose. If it goes well, they’re heroes. If it goes badly, then they dared the impossible, which is what space travel is supposed to be about.
There’s something depressing about the revelation that NASA may not have much of a space program, but that all it needed to get people to pay attention to it was some marketing mojo.