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Mars Science Laboratory

Gale Crater

Gale Crater is a fascinating place to explore because of the mountain of layered materials in the middle. On Earth, this mound would be a mountain 5 kilometers (3 miles) high! The layers tell a story about what Mars was like in the past, perhaps spanning much of the history of the red planet. Studies from orbit have revealed that the layers have different minerals depending on their height. Near the bottom of the mound are clay minerals. Above the clay-bearing layers are layers with sulfur and oxygen-bearing minerals are above them. Flowing water appears to have carved channels in both the mound and the crater wall. To get to the mound, the Mars Science Laboratory would land in a flatter part of the crater and carefully work its way upward, layer by layer. Along the way, the rover would investigate how the layers formed and the environments in which they formed.

Landing Site Selection