Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Monday, August 06, 2012

Gale Crater - Scientific Motherlode

Curiosity now sits inside the 96 mile in diameter Gale Crater, named for an Australian Astronomer, Walter F. Gale who died in 1945.  Inside the crater is a mountain rising some 18,000 off the bottom of Gale crater is Mt. Sharp, named for the NASA Geologist  Robert P. Sharp (1911-2004) – just slightly lower than the highest peak in North America (Mt. McKinley).  As you can see by this graphic, Curiosity has its work cut out for it.  During its two year (and probably much longer) exploration of this part of Mars, the rover is slated to scale the slope of Mt. Sharp along the suggested path on this graphic that depicts the first part of its journey up the slopes.   Gale crater is located about 4 degrees south of the Martian equator and also just south of the Elysium Plains which was the setting of my book, ABYSS OF ELYSIUM.  Gale crater is by far the most interesting site ever chosen for a rover mission and one laden with scientific opportunities.  NASA has played it cautiously with previous Mars rovers, dropping them in flood plains and driving slowly to targets of interest. This time it's different - Curiosity has successfully landed next to the scientific motherlode: a mountain that displays billions of years of Martian history.

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