Simulated image of rover’s Landing footprint

Because of uncertainties about entry angle, entry mass, atmosphere and drag, it’s not possible to predict Curiosity’s landing point with precision.  By simulating the various reentry variables, scientists assign a numerical simulation to produce a plot referred to as a Landing footprint or Landing ellipse.

The image puts the Curiosity rover inside Gale Crater at the foot of Mount Sharp, a mountain 3 kilometers high, higher than any mountain on earth.

Weighing in at one ton, Curiosity is the size of a Mini Cooper.  It’s a robotic, roving geologist and roving chemistry lab in search of life on the Red Planet.  Mars.  It’s loaded with 165 pounds of the most sophisticated scientific instruments ever sent to the planet.

During its two-year mission, the rover will search for organic molecules, the chemical ingredients of life and will investigate whether the planet has ever offered conditions favorable to the presence of organic life.

If Gale Crater had once been a lake, Curiosity may find something interesting there.

Mount Sharp is also an area of interest for its potential to have been connected to organic life at one time.  Curiosity will climb the mountain later in its mission.

Sources:  Wikipedia    Universe Today, August 6, 2012    Others     Image credit NASA


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