Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rover may tackle Kilimanjaro-sized mound on Mars

A mound of sedimentary rock rises nearly 5 kilometres high inside Mars's Gale crater (Image: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems)
New Scientist is reporting that the list of possible landing sites for the Curiosity Mars rover has been narrowed to two.

Rover may tackle Kilimanjaro-sized mound on Mars

"Talk about a tough road to climb. On 24 June, mission scientists endorsed two landing sites for NASA's next Mars rover from a shortlist of four. One of the two would see Curiosity tackle a mound of rocks nearly as high as mount Kilimanjaro.

Where to land the $2.5 billion robot, due to blast off in November, has been debated for years. NASA will now mull over the mission scientists' recommendations but is not obliged to follow either of them.

One pick is the 150-kilometre-wide Gale crater (pictured), which hosts a 5-kilometre-high mound. The mound contains clays and sulphate minerals that require water to form, suggesting it was laid down in layers as sediment when water filled the crater over a period of a few hundred million years, beginning about 3.8 billion years ago."