Friday, August 03, 2012

MSL/Curiosity Has Such a Cool Landing Site

Image Credit: NASA

The above image is a composite of two. The left image shows 155km-diameter Gale crater, site of the landing zone for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), which lands late on August 5th Pacific Time, early on August 6th Eastern Time. Superimposed on Gale crater are the sizes and shapes of the landing zones for previous NASA mission. From the largest to the smallest, they are Viking, Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rover (MER), Phoenix, and MSL. As can be seen, the accuracy of the targeting has increased with every mission. The right image is a blow-up of the MSL landing elipse, showing the surface in greater relief, with some identified geological features marked.

The MSL team geologists are very excited about having Gale crater as their target. In a nutshell, this is their reasoning. Gale crater sits on the boundary between the flat lowlands of the northern planes of Mars, which are geologically younger, and the southern highlands of Mars, which have many ancient impact craters. Also in this region are many evidences of water which flowed in the distant past. Combine this information with principle that water flows down hill, and the fact that Gale crater has one of the lowest elevations in that region, and Gale crater becomes a geologist's dream. The MSL mission team truly thinks it has picked one of the most fastenating locations on Mars for the Curiosity rover to explore.

Details on both the science and the engineering aspects of the mission were presented in two live briefings on August 2nd. Recordings of both briefings are available online for review at the Curiosity page of NASA's Ustream channel.

CLICK HERE to view the August 2nd MSL/Curiosity science briefing.

CLICK HERE to view the August 2nd MSL/Curiosity engineering briefing.

On August 5th, beginning 8:30 PM PDT / 11:30 PM EDT / 15:30 UTC, NASA will broadcast online the MSL/Curiosity landing coverage. To join in, go to this URL, mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate .

The Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover mission is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C., by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena (Caltech). More information about Curiosity is online at www.nasa.gov/msl and mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

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