6 August 2012
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity touched down on the Red Planet at Gale Crater this morning, shown here in this colour-coded map provided by ESA’s Mars Express.
The image was taken by the high-resolution stereo camera and colour-coded according to elevation: white and red indicate the highest features, while purple and blue represent the lowest-lying regions.
The view is from the northeast of Gale Crater, a 154 km-wide crater just south of the martian equator.
Curiosity landed in the depression shown in blue in the right-hand side of the crater close to the steep slopes of the central mound. It will explore its rugged surrounds for at least two years.
One of the car-sized rover’s targets is the conspicuous mound itself, which rises 5.5 km above the crater floor.
Orbiting spacecraft have identified minerals and clays in the central mound that suggest water may have once filled the area.
Each layer of minerals provides a different chapter in the story of water on Mars that Curiosity will help to tell by analysing samples of these materials with its onboard laboratory.
Ultimately, Curiosity will help to determine whether life may ever have existed on Mars.