Feeds

Nuclear Mars tank to roam imposing crater

Red planet 'firmly in our sights', declares NASA boss

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

NASA has announced that its Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity, will touch down in Mars' Gale crater, described as boffins' "top choice to pursue the ambitious goals of this new rover mission".

Gale crater is a depression 96 miles (154km) in diameter – covering "about the combined area of Connecticut and Rhode Island" – lying at 4.5° south 137.4° east. Curiosity's exact target is the foot of a mountain inside the crater, "rising higher from the crater floor than Mount Rainier rises above Seattle".

NASA composite aerial image of the Gale crater

John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist, explained: "One fascination with Gale is that it's a huge crater sitting in a very low-elevation position on Mars, and we all know that water runs downhill."

NASA elaborates: "The portion of the crater where Curiosity will land has an alluvial fan likely formed by water-carried sediments. The layers at the base of the mountain contain clays and sulfates, both known to form in water."

Curiosity is tasked with sniffing water, but also organic compounds - although Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA HQ, described the chance of finding the latter as "a long shot".

He added: "What adds to Gale's appeal is that, organics or not, the site holds a diversity of features and layers for investigating changing environmental conditions, some of which could inform a broader understanding of habitability on ancient Mars."

NASA head honcho Charles Bolden was keen to big up the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, following yesterday's wrap of the US shuttle programme. He declared: "Mars is firmly in our sights. Curiosity not only will return a wealth of important science data, but it will serve as a precursor mission for human exploration to the Red Planet."

Artist's impression of Curiosity on Mars. Pic: NASA

The mission is due to launch from Cape Canaveral between 25 November and 18 December. In case you haven't had enough of NASA's Connecticut / Rhode Island / Mount Rainier / Seattle comparisons, it describes Curiosity as "car-sized", although its weight in rhinos is not noted.

There's more on today's announcement here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.