The lower portion of a mountain inside Gale crater on Mars contains layers that may be examined by NASA's Mars Science Laboratory. A landing site in Gale, close to the foot of the mountain, has been selected for the mission. The mission will launch during the period Nov. 25 to Dec. 18, 2011 and land the rover Curiosity on Mars in August 2012. Researchers will use tools on Curiosity to study whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed.
This view of the mountain in Gale was generated from a three-dimensional model, with the vertical dimension exaggerated three-fold. Information for the model came from a pair of observations by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (0.6 mile).
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter projects for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the High Resolution Science Imaging Experiment.