sharp view from the
Thermal Emission Imaging System
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter is centered on 154 kilometer (96 mile)
wide Gale crater, near the martian equator.
an impressive layered mountain rises about 5 kilometers
(3 miles) above the crater floor.
Layers and structures near its base are thought
to have been formed in ancient times by water-carried sediments.
a spot near
the crater's northern side at the foot of the mountain
has now been chosen
as the target for the
Science Laboratory mission.
Scheduled for launch late this year,
the mission will land
Mars' next visitor from planet Earth in August of 2012,
lowering the car-sized
to the martian surface with a
hovering, rocket-powered skycrane.
Curiosity's science instruments
intended to discover if
Gale once had favorable environmental conditions for
supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life
ever existed on
the Red Planet.