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River delta or mountain stack for Mars Science Laboratory
DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 07 July 2011


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There are just two landing sites left competing for exploration by Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity Rover that is due to blast off from Cape Canaveral later this year: Gale Crater and the Eberswalde crater delta.

John Grotzinger, MSL project scientist, told members of the press during a science missions news conference at Kennedy Space Center yesterday that a final decision will be made by the end of the July.


A river delta (top) or mountain stack inside a crater (bottom) for the Mars Science Laboratory? A decision will be made by the end of the month. Image: NASA.

Both sites present high science potential. Eberswalde is a former river delta bearing clay minerals formed as a river flowed into a lake. Studying regions once dominated by water could help determine whether life once existed on the red planet.

Competing is the central peak region inside Gale Crater. Layers of material that make up the mountain stack offer a look back in time, allowing scientists to study the transition between environments that reflect a wetter past to today's drier climate.

Curiosity will arrive at Mars in August 2012 and will use a novel entry, descent and landing system that will place it within a 20 kilometer landing ellipse.

"Curiosity rover is the latest installment in Mars exploration," said Grotzinger who described the rover as being as big as a car and literally weighing a ton. It is optimized to drive at least 20 kilometers in two Earth years. "But if you scale it to the Mars Exploration Rovers which are still going seven years into their proposed 90 day mission, we've probably got a pretty good mission ahead of us!"

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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