Hang on and take a bird’s eye look at the four different proposed landing sites for the Mars Science Lab! At a briefing yesterday, Dr. Richard Zurek presented a flyover video of the potential landing sites for the next Mars rover, set to launch in 2011. The video is now available, and Zurek narrates the excellent flyover footage of each site, created by images taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Enjoy the video, and find out a little more on each of the proposed sites below.
Location: Northern Plains, east of Pathfinder rover site (24.65° N, 340.10° E)
This is an ancient channel carved by catastrophic floods. Spectrometers on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have detected clay minerals which contain water, and may also preserve organic materials, so there is great interest in studying these deposits to understand past environments that could have supported life. Images from the MRO HiRise camera show hills with several layers and intriguing boulders.
Location: South of Vallis Marineris (26.4° S, 325.3° E)
This crater contains deep gullies carved by running water as well as examples of what are assumed to be lake beds and sediments deposited by streams. These deposits are more than three billion years old, which dates back to a wetter period on Mars. Scientists believe Holden Crater once was a lake, and when the water disappeared, wind eroded the surface and formed the ripples and dunes that have been imaged by the HiRise instrument.
Eberswalde Crater: Location: South of Vallis Marineris (23.20° S, 326.75° E)
The Eberswalde delta is the most convincing evidence on Mars for the persistent flow of a river into a standing body of water. HiRise images show many channels within the delta that have become inverted, which occurs as sediments deposited by flowing water solidify over time and become resistant to erosion. High resolution HiRise images show individual boulders breaking off from the channel deposits.
Gale Crater: Location: Elysium Planetia 4.6° S, 137.2° E
Gale is a ~100 km diameter crater on Mars with a huge 5 km tall mound of sediments in the middle that is taller than parts of the rim. The origin of this mound is not known with certainty, but research suggests it’s the eroded remnant of sedimentary layers that once filled the crater completely, possibly originally deposited on a lakebed.