NASA’s most ambitious Mars rover ever, named Curiosity, will reach the red planet in August of 2012. When it does, it will touch down in Mars’ Gale Crater, a landing site chosen from among 30 others. What makes Gale so special? Location, location, location. Gale lies “near the border of Mars’ hemispheric dichotomy—a peculiar geological characteristic that divides the planet’s…northern lowlands from its…southern highlands.” Scientist believe that at one time, water might have flowed from the highlands into the crater.
What’s the Big Idea?
Curiosity‘s mission is to determine if Mars has ever been capable of hosting microbial life, making the presence of water a crucial point of investigation (at least for life as we know it). If the landing goes according to plan, Curiosity will begin to slowly ascend a massive mound in the middle of Gale which should provide the opportunity to investigate different layers of rock formed by erosion over time. “In doing so, Curiosity will provide us with a much better understanding of…how [the rock layers] formed, and whether Mars is, or ever was, capable of supporting life.”