Science & Astronomy

Photos: Gale Crater on Mars, Curiosity Rover's Landing Site

SPACE.com Staff |
NASA has selected Gale crater as the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Daybreak at Gale Crater

This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning light. Northward is to the left. Gale is the crater with a mound inside it near the center of the image. NASA has selected Gale as the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The mission's rover will be placed on the ground in a northern portion of Gale crater in August 2012. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This computer-generated view depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning light. Northward is to the left. Gale is the crater with a mound inside it near the center of the image. NASA has selected Gale as the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The mission's rover will be placed on the ground in a northern portion of Gale crater in August 2012.

Map of Mars Showing Proposed Landing Sites for Curiosity

This map of Mars shows all of the more than 60 landing sites proposed for the Mars Science Laboratory (red dots) and the four final candidate sites (blue dots). Discussion by more than 150 scientists over more than five years led to the selection of the four final candidate sites: Eberswalde crater, Gale crater, Holden crater, and Mawrth Vallis. Gale eventually was selected as the landing site. The white shaded areas are more than 30 degrees north and south of the equator and off limits to MSL because of seasonally harsh (cold) conditions expected there. The black areas are too high in elevation to be considered for landing. Original Image
Credit: NASA

This map of Mars shows all of the more than 60 landing sites proposed for the Mars Science Laboratory (red dots) and the four final candidate sites (blue dots). Discussion by more than 150 scientists over more than five years led to the selection of the four final candidate sites: Eberswalde crater, Gale crater, Holden crater, and Mawrth Vallis. Gale eventually was selected as the landing site. The white shaded areas are more than 30 degrees north and south of the equator and off limits to MSL because of seasonally harsh (cold) conditions expected there. The black areas are too high in elevation to be considered for landing.

Lower Portion of Mound Inside Gale Crater

This oblique view of the lower mound in Gale crater on Mars shows an area of top scientific interest for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/UA

This oblique view of the lower mound in Gale crater on Mars shows an area of top scientific interest for the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Canyons on Mountain Inside Gale Crater, Annotated

This oblique view of Gale crater shows the landing site and the mound of layered rocks that NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will investigate. The landing site is in the smooth area in front of the mound (marked by a yellow ellipse, which is 12.4 miles [20 kilometers] by 15.5 miles [25 kilometers]). Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/UA

This oblique view of Gale crater shows the landing site and the mound of layered rocks that NASA's Mars Science Laboratory will investigate. The landing site is in the smooth area in front of the mound (marked by a yellow ellipse, which is 12.4 miles [20 kilometers] by 15.5 miles [25 kilometers]).

Oblique View of Gale Crater from the Northwest

This computer-generated view based on multiple orbital observations shows Mars' Gale crater as if seen from an aircraft northwest of the crater. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/UA

This computer-generated view based on multiple orbital observations shows Mars' Gale crater as if seen from an aircraft northwest of the crater.

Gale Crater: Future Home of Mars Rover Curiosity

NASA has selected Gale crater as the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory mission. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA has selected Gale crater as the landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory mission.

Gale Crater

Gale Crater, which is near the Martian equator, offers access to a wide range of rock strata, including sulfates and phyllosilicates in a mountain three miles (5 kilometers) high. Curiosity could probably drive partway up this mountain, checking out layers deposited during wet periods with changing environmental conditions. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

Gale Crater, which is near the Martian equator, offers access to a wide range of rock strata, including sulfates and phyllosilicates in a mountain three miles (5 kilometers) high. Curiosity could probably drive partway up this mountain, checking out layers deposited during wet periods with changing environmental conditions.

Rock Layers in Lower Mound in Gale Crater

This oblique view of the lower mound in Gale crater shows layers of rock that preserve a record of environments on Mars. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/UA

This oblique view of the lower mound in Gale crater shows layers of rock that preserve a record of environments on Mars.

Curiosity, the Newest Mars Rover

This artist's concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Curiosity launched toward the Red Planet on Nov. 26, 2011. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This artist's concept features NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. Curiosity launched toward the Red Planet on Nov. 26, 2011.

Four Finalist Landing Site Candidates for Mars Science Laboratory

Out of more than 30 sites considered as possible landing targets for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, by November 2008 four of the most intriguing places on Mars rose to the final round of the site-selection process. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Out of more than 30 sites considered as possible landing targets for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, by November 2008 four of the most intriguing places on Mars rose to the final round of the site-selection process.

Final Testing of NASA's Curiosity Rover at JPL

NASA's Curiosity rover is shown here during final testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It will be shipped to its Florida launch site in late June 2011. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA's Curiosity rover is shown here during final testing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It will be shipped to its Florida launch site in late June 2011.

Mars Science Laboratory Landing Diagram

This graphic portrays the sequence of key events in August 2012 from the time the NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft — with its rover Curiosity — enters the Martian atmosphere to a moment after it touches down on the surface. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This graphic portrays the sequence of key events in August 2012 from the time the NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft — with its rover Curiosity — enters the Martian atmosphere to a moment after it touches down on the surface.

Heavy-Lift Helicopter Inspires NASA’s New Mars Lander

Sky Crane illustrated lowering Mars Sample Return spacecraft. Image Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL, Corby Waste

Sky Crane illustrated lowering Mars Sample Return spacecraft. Image

Mars Science Laboratory: Big Wheels on A Red Planet

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will be much larger than NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers that began exploring the red planet in early 2004. Image Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will be much larger than NASA's two Mars Exploration Rovers that began exploring the red planet in early 2004. Image

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Lands in Florida

NASA's next Mars rover, known as Curiosity, landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 22, 2011, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane. Original Image
Credit: NASA

NASA's next Mars rover, known as Curiosity, landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 22, 2011, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane.

Next Mars Rover Gets Huge Heat Shield

This massive heat shield is covered in an ablative material that will help protect NASA's new Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity - a robot the size of a car - from the searing temperatures of atmospheric entry when it lands on Mars. Built by Lockheed Martin, the shield is 15 feet wide, the biggest ever bound for Mars. Original Image
Credit: Lockheed Martin.

This massive heat shield is covered in an ablative material that will help protect NASA's new Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity - a robot the size of a car - from the searing temperatures of atmospheric entry when it lands on Mars. Built by Lockheed Martin, the shield is 15 feet wide, the biggest ever bound for Mars.

Earth Microbes Not Likely to Contaminate Mars, Scientists Say

This image shows the Mars rover Curiosity being assembled in one of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's 'clean rooms.' The team members are all dressed in special head-to-toe white suits. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This image shows the Mars rover Curiosity being assembled in one of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's 'clean rooms.' The team members are all dressed in special head-to-toe white suits.

NASA's Next Mars Rover, Curiosity, Is an Internet Star

NASA's Curiosity Cam allows the public to watch technicians assemble and test NASA's next Mars rover in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech

NASA's Curiosity Cam allows the public to watch technicians assemble and test NASA's next Mars rover in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

James Cameron with Curosity Mast

Academy Award-winning director James Cameron (right) inspects engineering model of camera mast for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Cameron is a member of the camera team for the Red Planet mission. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL

Academy Award-winning director James Cameron (right) inspects engineering model of camera mast for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Cameron is a member of the camera team for the Red Planet mission.

Testing the Mars Science Laboratory Rover, Curiosity

Testing of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Evaluations during March included use of a space-simulation chamber designed to put the rover through operational sequences in environmental conditions similar to what it will experience on the surface of Mars. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Testing of the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Evaluations during March included use of a space-simulation chamber designed to put the rover through operational sequences in environmental conditions similar to what it will experience on the surface of Mars.

JPL Technicians Work on Mars Science Laboratory Rover Curiosity

Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory work on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity in May 2011. The rover is upside-down, and its six wheels are off (they rest on a table, at far right of the photo). Original Image
Credit: Mike Wall

Technicians at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory work on the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity in May 2011. The rover is upside-down, and its six wheels are off (they rest on a table, at far right of the photo).

Pieces of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Mission at JPL

Pieces of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2011. From left: the Curiosity rover (along rear wall; its tires are on a table to the rover's right), the entry-descent-landing stage, the cruise stage and the backshell. Original Image
Credit: Mike Wall

Pieces of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2011. From left: the Curiosity rover (along rear wall; its tires are on a table to the rover's right), the entry-descent-landing stage, the cruise stage and the backshell.

Mars Science Laboratory Entry-descent-landing System and Cruise Stage

A close-up of the Mars Science Laboratory mission's entry-descent-landing system (foreground) and cruise stage, in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2011. Original Image
Credit: Mike Wall

A close-up of the Mars Science Laboratory mission's entry-descent-landing system (foreground) and cruise stage, in a clean room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in May 2011.

Giant Mars Rover Parachute Passes Key Test

The parachute for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory passed flight-qualification testing in March and April 2009 inside the world's largest wind tunnel, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Original Image
Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/JPL

The parachute for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory passed flight-qualification testing in March and April 2009 inside the world's largest wind tunnel, at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Biggest Heat Shield Prepared for Mars Spacecraft

The heat shield for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is the largest ever built for a planetary mission. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

The heat shield for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory is the largest ever built for a planetary mission.

Readying the Aeroshell for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission

The huge aeroshell for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is readied at Lockheed Martin Space Systems near Denver. Original Image
Credit: Lockheed Martin

The huge aeroshell for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is readied at Lockheed Martin Space Systems near Denver.

Preparing Mars Science Laboratory Heat Shield

Technicians at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, prepare the heat shield for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, in this April 2011 photo. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

Technicians at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, prepare the heat shield for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, in this April 2011 photo.

Mars Science Laboratory: Engineers, Scientists Tackle Challenges

The rover is to be powered by nuclear generator (not shown in this drawing) permitting the Mars machinery a long range ability to explore science targets. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL/Corby Waste

The rover is to be powered by nuclear generator (not shown in this drawing) permitting the Mars machinery a long range ability to explore science targets.

Small 'Odyssey' Crater on Rim of Huge 'Endeavour' Crater

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity arrived at the rim of Endeavour crater on Aug. 9, 2011, after a trek of more than 13 miles (21 kilometers) lasting nearly three years since departing the rover's previous major destination, Victoria crater, in August 2008. Original Image
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity arrived at the rim of Endeavour crater on Aug. 9, 2011, after a trek of more than 13 miles (21 kilometers) lasting nearly three years since departing the rover's previous major destination, Victoria crater, in August 2008.

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