Curiosity Landing Site Over Time
Curiosity Landing Site Over Time
ESP_040269_1755  Science Theme: Future Exploration/Landing Sites
Spacecraft that land in dusty areas of Mars create dark blast zone patterns where bright dust is blown away by the landing. Continued high-resolution monitoring with the HiRISE show these dark patterns fade over time in a surprising way.

These sequences of HiRISE images span two and a half years, during which time the rover has driven away from its initial touchdown location, leaving its tracks behind, which themselves fade over time. The parachute can also be seen flapping around in the wind near the backshell landing site. The landing sites of other spacecraft hardware (sky crane and heat shield) also show fading over this time, presumably because bright dust is settling on the surface and masking the blast zones.

Scientists thought they could model this fading and predict how long it would take for the patterns to disappear entirely. However, the most recent image, taken just a few weeks ago, shows that the blast zones aren’t fading as quickly as they predicted: they may even be getting darker! This shows that we don’t yet fully understand the processes that move dust around on the Martian surface.

Understanding this better will help the HP3 instrument on the future Mars lander InSight model the interior heat flow of Mars, which will be affected by the brightness of the surface at its landing site.

Written by: Ingrid Daubar  (27 March 2015)

Acquisition date
28 February 2015

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
268.8 km (167.0 miles)

Original image scale range
26.9 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~81 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
40°, with the Sun about 50° above the horizon

Solar longitude
299.5°, Northern Winter

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  336.8°
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
map projected  non-map

Merged IRB
map projected

Merged RGB
map projected

RGB color
non-map projected

Black and white
map-projected   (392MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (219MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (172MB)
non-map           (218MB)

IRB color
map projected  (55MB)
non-map           (203MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (93MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (90MB)

RGB color
non map           (220MB)
B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

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.