September, 2012

Curiosity and Mars




Named "Curiosity," the latest Mars rover launched in November 2011. Its main objective is to determine if the red planet was ever, or is still today, capable of supporting life.

On August 6, 2012, Curiosity safely landed within Gale Crater, an area rich with water-related deposits. The rover will collect dozens of soil and rock samples. Its onboard laboratory will then analyze the samples in the hope of discovering the chemical building blocks of life (such as forms of carbon).

Curiosity is about the same size as a small car, making it the largest Mars rover ever built. It will travel farther and over rougher terrain than its predecessors, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

Artist concept courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech


Gale Crater

Mount Sharp

Gale Crater and Mount Sharp

A. This view of Gale Crater reveals the landing site of the Curiosity rover. The crater is 154 kilometers (96 miles) in diameter and contains a layered mountain, named "Mount Sharp," which rises about 5 kilometers (3 miles) above the crater floor. The rover touched down in the landing ellipse (yellow) on August 6, 2012. The ellipse contains a very dense and brightly colored rock type unlike any previously studied on Mars. The image was created using data from ESA and NASA orbiters.

B. Taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, this image provides an oblique view over Mount Sharp.

Gale Crater image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS Mount Sharp image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona




Taken by the Curiosity rover, this image reveals the layered rock at the base of Mount Sharp. These layers interest mission scientists because they may contain clays and other minerals that form in the presence of water. Since they're 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the landing site, it may be a year before the rover reaches them for study.

Image courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems


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Exploring The Planets

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