Researchers at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University used data from the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) to help scientists choose a landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). This is NASA’s next-generation rover spacecraft, due for arrival in August 2011.
MSL’s mission is to collect Martian soil and rock samples and analyze them for organic compounds, looking for environmental conditions that could have supported microbial life now or in the past.
Following a workshop in summer 2006, scientists identified 36 candidate landing sites for further study. After additional workshops, the list was narrowed to four. Scientists and engineers are now using THEMIS and other spacecraft resources to assess these more closely from the standpoint of flight safety and scientific value.
The “Final Four”: Landing Sites