DARMSTADT, Germany. — Much like a treasure map branded with an ‘X’ to mark the site of buried bounty, NASA’s rover Curiosity will be targeting its very own ‘X’ inside Gale Crater, to seek out the signs of past water – and maybe even life – on the Red Planet.
Mars Express will play an important role in monitoring the spectacular delivery of Curiosity to the martian surface during the ‘seven minutes of terror’ that describe the entry, descent and landing of the car-sized rover.
But the ESA spacecraft has already provided information that led to refinements of the rover’s landing ellipse last month.
Oblique view of Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater, with the original and revised landing ellipses marked. – Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS — CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, Curiosity was initially aiming for a 20 x 25 km landing ellipse, already much smaller than the landing target area for any previous Mars mission thanks to MSL’s techniques for improved landing precision.
By combining elevation data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express, image data from the Context Camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and colour information from ...