Terrain Near the MSL Landing Site
Terrain Near the MSL Landing Site
ESP_026568_1750  Science Theme: Future Exploration/Landing Sites
This image is of a region slightly to the southwest of where the MSL rover, called Curiosity, will land in August 2012.

It shows three distinct terrains: (a) older plains, (b) an overlying unit with a distinct margin, and (c) recent sand dunes. The dunes indicate that the strongest winds tend to blow from the northeast toward the southwest and, like many dune fields on Mars, are probably moving slowly.

The second unit has a margin that, at low resolution, is similar to a lava flow. It also has a hard surface that retains impact craters better than the older plains beneath it.

At full HiRISE resolution it is evident that this deposit is not lava.It has thin layers and a dense network of fractures across its surface. The tops of some lava flows and lava lakes are also fractured. However, HiRISE has confirmed that the size and other characteristics of lava fractures are quite different from the ones visible here. Hence, this is some kind of sedimentary deposit, possibly consisting of largely of hardened mud.

It is likely that Curiosity will have an opportunity to investigate terrain like this soon after landing as it drives to the layered mound to the south.

Written by: Laszlo Kestay (audio recording by Tre Gibbs)  (25 April 2012)
Acquisition date
27 March 2012

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
266.0 km (165.3 miles)

Original image scale range
54.3 cm/pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects ~163 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
50 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
56°, with the Sun about 34° above the horizon

Solar longitude
88.9°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  41.5°
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.