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Emily LakdawallaSeptember 15, 2008

MSL landing site meeting, September 15-17, 2008

So as I mentioned in my Ustream announcement I'm now attending the third Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landing site selection meeting, which takes place September 15-17, 2008. For some context, you can check out the posts I wrote at last year's meeting, here, here, here, and here. Also check out the CRISM maps of some of the landing sites I posted at the same time. And grad student Ryan Anderson has reposted all of his posts on last year's meeting over at Martian Chronicles (starting here), where I assume he will be blogging away with further details on this year's meeting.

Mars Science Laboratory

NASA / JPL

Mars Science Laboratory
Although I usually eschew acronyms, I think I have no choice but to use "MSL" for "Mars Science Laboratory" since I'll be typing it so often and since no one in this room will be referring to the mission as anything but "MSL."

In a recent post, Ryan mentions something that I wasn't aware of. He said that after last year's meeting, the MSL Project Science Group met in what has become known as the "morning after meeting," and actually modified the list of landing sites that had come out of last year's meeting. Here is the current list (which actually differs slightly from Ryan's; this one is from the meeting website):

Proposed MSL Landing Sites
NameLocationElevationNote
Nili Fossae Trough21.00ºN, 74.45ºE-608 mNoachian phyllosilicates
Holden Crater Fan26.37ºS, 325.10ºE-1940 mfluvial layers, phyllosilicates
Mawrth Vallis
ite 1
ite 2
ite 3
ite 4

24.65ºN, 340.09ºE
4.01N, 341.03ºE
3.19ºN, 342.41ºE
4.86ºN, 339.42ºE

-3093 m
2246 m
2187 m
3359 m


Noachian layered phyllosilicates
Eberswalde Crater23.86°S, 326.73°E-1450 mDelta
Miyamoto3.34ºS, 352.26ºE-1807 mphyllosilicates, sulfates?
S Meridiani3.05ºS, 354.61ºE-1589 msulfates, phyllosilicates
Gale Crater4.49ºS, 137.42ºE-4451 mlayered sulfates, phyllosilicates

You can download more information, including pictures, from the NASA Ames landing site selection website (I'd've posted the maps here, but the presence of so many scientists in one conference room seems to be bringing the network to a dialup-like crawl, so images are tough.)

Ryan said in his blog entry that two candidates discussed last year, Jezero and Terby, were tossed because of unsafe landing conditions; Meridiani was added because it is an extremely safe spot to land. Last year, I had discussions with scientists who told me that all this debate was worthless because in the end they'd go for the safest spot, which would be Meridiani. It'll be interesting to see whether they were right.

Stay tuned for updates!

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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