Mars 2020 Candidate Landing Site in McLaughlin Crater
Mars 2020 Candidate Landing Site in McLaughlin Crater
ESP_043136_2020  Science Theme: Future Exploration/Landing Sites
McLaughlin Crater (21.9 N, 337.6 E) is a large, approximately 95-kilometer diameter impact crater located north of Mawrth Vallis, in Arabia Terra, a region that was made famous by the book and movie “The Martian” by Andy Weir.

McLaughlin Crater straddles three major terrain types: the Northern lowlands, the Southern highlands and the Mawrth Vallis region. The crater floor is thought to be covered by clays and carbonates that were deposited in a deep lake at least 3.8 billion years ago perhaps by ground water upwelling from beneath the crater floor (Michalski et al, 2013, Nature Geoscience).

McLaughlin Crater is listed as a candidate landing site for the 2020 Mars surface mission. Although it is described as a “flat, low-risk and low-elevation landing zone,” the region in this image on the southern floor of the crater shows a complex surface of eroded layers that are rough in places. An unusual feature is a straight fracture cutting diagonally across the layered material at the bottom portion of the image that may be a fault line.

Written by: Henrik Hargitai and Ginny Gulick (audio: Tre Gibbs)  (13 January 2016)

This is a stereo pair with ESP_042991_2020.
Acquisition date
09 October 2015

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
286.2 km (177.9 miles)

Original image scale range
29.6 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~89 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel and North is up

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
39°, with the Sun about 51° above the horizon

Solar longitude
52.6°, Northern Spring

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  97°
Sub-solar azimuth:  12.0°
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Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
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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.