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Target Mars!

This image was taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) of Mars Express. It is color-coded based on a digital terrain model derived from stereo image data.Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission carrying the one-ton Curiosity rover is on target to land on the red planet at 10:31 p.m. PDT on Sunday, Aug. 5 (1:31 a.m. EDT, 0531 GMT on Aug. 6).

That spacecraft is headed for Gale Crater, a154 kilometer wide feature that dots the face of Mars.

Part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, Curiosity was initially aiming for a 20 x 25 kilometer landing ellipse, already much smaller than the landing target area for any previous Mars mission thanks to MSL’s techniques for improved landing precision.

The crater is located on the southern hemisphere near the equator.

In particular, the layered structure of the high mountain in the middle of the crater allow insights into past eras of Martian evolution. Photographs from orbit also show signs of erosion in the lower part of the mountain.

By Leonard David


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