Mars Rover Curiosity's Destination: Gale Crater

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posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 09:58 PM
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On August 5 or 6 of this year, the Mars Science Laboratory (or MSL) named "Curiosity" will be the latest Mars Rover to arrive at the red planet. This new rover is bigger than previous rovers, has more powerful instruments, and will hopefully explore more than the previous rovers.

Here is a earlier thread I made about the Rover itself (this was originally posted when it was launched last November).

www.abovetopsecret.com...


But that thread is about the rover. This thread is about the rover's destination and mission. Curiosity is headed for a crater on Mars named "Gale Crater", specifically at the base of a mountain within the crater unofficially named "Mount Sharp". Curiosity is set to land on a plane inside the crater, and will rive its way to (and up) Mount Sharp.

Mount Sharp, Curiosity's landing ellipse, and one possible route of exploration (shown in blue):



Stratification on Mount Sharp suggests the mountain is a surviving remnant of an extensive series of deposits that were laid down after a massive impact that excavated Gale Crater more than 3 billion years ago. The stack of layers more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) high offers a history book of sequential chapters recording environmental conditions when each stratum was deposited.

During a prime mission lasting nearly two years after landing, Curiosity will use 10 instruments to investigate whether this area of Mars has ever offered conditions favorable for life, including the chemical ingredients for life. Some lower layers of Mount Sharp might tell of a lake within Gale Crater long ago, or wind-delivered sediments subsequently soaked by groundwater. In those layers, Mars orbiters have detected minerals that formed during wet conditions. Liquid water is a starting point in describing conditions favorable for life, but just the beginning of what Curiosity can investigate.

Image Source + Additional Information

'Mount Sharp' On Mars Links Geology's Past And Future

As described in the excerpt above, Gale Crater is an interesting exploration site because:

(1) There are layers of sediment that could help give clues to the geological history of Mars, and

(2) Gale Crater is the possible location of an ancient lake on Mars, which may have clay deposits (created by a wet environment) that may also indicate how hospitable Mars may have been to life in a potentially more watery past.

Here is an interesting article about Gale Crater and why it is such an exciting place for NASA astrobiologists looking for signs that Mars could have had highly favorable conditions for the genesis of life (conditions that may have been similar to when life started on Earth):


... NASA is utilizing a first-of- its- kind pinpoint landing system for targeting Curiosity to touchdown inside Gale Crater – one of the most scientifically interesting locations on the Red Planet because it exhibits exposures of clay minerals that formed in the presence of neutral liquid water that could be conducive to the genesis of life...

...“From NASA’s prior missions we’ve learned that Mars is a dynamic planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars exploration program, at a pre-launch briefing for reporters at the Kennedy Space Center.

“We’ve learned that it has a history where it was warm and wet at the same time that life started here on Earth. And we know it’s undergone a massive transition from that more benign time to what it is today.”


Source (please note that this article was written in November, before the spacecraft's launch):
Science Rich Gale Crater and NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover – Touchdown in a Habitable Zone


Below is a video giving a quick overview of the mission of the MSL "Curiosity" Rover. Pay close attention at about the 2:50 mark for the unique landing procedure being used by Curiosity. It's too big for an airbag system (such as used by previous rovers), so it instead uses a "sky crane" system:






Additional information and resources about Gale Crater and the MSL rover:

Gale Crater and indexed images of places the rover may visit

Image of proposed landing site

Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Main MSL Page

I mentioned above that Curiosity is much bigger than previous rovers. These images will give you and idea of the size of a mock-up of this new rover (on the right) compared to earlier rovers -- the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity (on the left), and the size of the first Mars rover, Sojourner (center), that roved several meters of Mars in 1997:



and a mock-up of it compared to people:




So, mark your calendar for the night of August 5th or the early morning of August 6th (depending on what time zone you are located). The landing of the MSL/Curiosity should be an interesting one -- but that will just be the start of a 2-year mission (at least) that could very well be the most exciting Mars mission to date.




posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 10:03 PM
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What would be so cool is to have one of the new rovers drive up to one of the old rovers and take pictures of it. I think that would be cool to have them meet each other.



posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 10:24 PM
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reply to post by fixer1967
 


Yeah then that's when the commencement of IROBOT or Transformers really began.



posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 10:33 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 

Thanks for the review. So we're going off roading this time, huh? Sounds risky. That slope is fine and all from space. What if it is made of those matza ball "marbles" and we find it slippery? This unit looks heavier than the others. Hope curiosity doesn't kill the cat. For my money I would pick more level areas to rove around in (instead of hilly country).



posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 10:35 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


with all the hype of "hale crater" is where they should be going, not gale crater.re:j p skippers site" mars anomaly research" if true



posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 10:38 PM
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I can't wait to see the doctored Photoshopped or as they call it re-enhanced photos.

Sorry I just can't follow anymore of this... the photos that they bring back or show the public are so doctored that you can tell they just change them. It's laughable at all the anomalies they blur out.
edit on 4/22/2012 by FoxStriker because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 10:42 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 



Thanks for posting, S&F. The one thing i never realiased was how small the rovers are. Not that i thought they would be the size of a Hummer, just thought they would be bigger. I am very interested in what they find up there, but purely just for the sake of knowing. I mean, its not like there will be some sort of 'Total Recall' outpost there any time soon



posted on Apr, 22 2012 @ 10:51 PM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


Why whould I mark it on my calendar when I have YOU to remind me when the time comes?


Thanks for the thread, I enjoyed and it is already marked in anything that contains a calendar just in case one fails!



posted on Apr, 26 2012 @ 02:31 PM
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I must have missed this link in my OP, but this is an interesting video. It's a lecture by Dr. Matt Golombek, who is a NASA/JPL geologist working on the MSL mission.

This video is about the selection of the landing site, and about some details of the landing site. In short, he explained why Gale Crater was on the short list of landing sites, and why it was chosen over the others. It was on the short list of sites because of the presence of clay material, which form in a neutral (non-acidic) watery environment, sulfates, which also indicate water, and has exposed strata which can help give a geological history of Mars.

Here's a link to the video. It's about 1 hour long, and the first 37 minutes is basically about why Gale was chosen over the others. The last 22 minutes or so is about what they expect to see once they get there.

Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity Rover Landing Site - Gale Crater


edit on 4/26/2012 by Soylent Green Is People because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 30 2012 @ 11:19 AM
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Here is further information I found on Gale Crater (Link below). This article mostly deals with the the idea that Gale Crater will offer scientists walls of exposed geological strata showing billions of years of Mars history. The assertion that Gale Crater was perhaps once a lake bed (or at least once very wet) could add some excitement s to what those strata may show.

When asked what he hopes to find there in his "wildest dreams", NASA geologist Matt Golombek (in the video in my post above) jokingly -- or at least mostly jokingly -- states he hopes to find a dinosaur bone sticking out
. Even though he was joking about a "dinosaur bone", I actually think in his wildest dreams, he would like to see a visible tiny sea-creature fossil in the rock strata, although I don't think he is counting on it. If there was life on Mars a couple billion years ago, it was most likely single-celled, and no direct signs of that life would be visible to the rover.

Anyway, here is that article. Much of this goes hand-in-hand with the lecture in the video I linked in my other post above:
The Strange Attraction of Gale Crater





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