07/22/2011 07:00:00

Curiosity to Explore Gale Crater

When Curiosity, the next Mars rover, arrives at the Red Planet next summer, it will be exploring Gale Crater, NASA announced today.

The crater is nearly 100 miles in diameter and is home to a layered mountain three miles high. Clay minerals form the lower layers while sulfur and oxygen-bearing minerals sit above. Channels carved into the mountain and the crater wall suggest that water once flowed through the region. The car-sized Curiosity rover will land at the foot of the mountain and slowly make its way up, exploring it layer by layer.

John Grotzinger, project scientist for Curiosity and Fletcher Jones Professor of Geology, describes the landing site in this video.

Curiosity will launch in November of this year and land on Mars in August 2012. The rover will spend two years roaming the planet, searching for clues as to whether Mars is—or ever was—able to support microbial life.

Read more here.

Written by Marcus Woo