Paper No. 80-5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
DEVELOPMENT AND USE OF THE MARS SCIENCE LABORATORY LANDING ELLIPSE GEOLOGIC MAP (Invited Presentation)
The Mars Science Laboratory (aka Curiosity rover) was sent to search for evidence of ancient habitable environments that may have existed 3-4 Gya in Gale crater. The MSL Science Team created a geologic map to act as a guide for investigating outcrops on the way to Aeolis Mons, aka “Mount Sharp”, a 5 km stack of sedimentary layers that appears to record climate transition from a wet to dry landscape. The map was built by “crowd sourcing” 40 members of the science team to map out 1.2 km square quadrangles, and then integrating the various geologic units into a single map. The mapping basemap consists of 12 HiRISE orthoimages at 25 cm/pixel, 3 CTX low-nadir angle images at ~6 m/pixel, and an HRSC orthoimage coregistered to Mars horizontally and vertically using accompanying DEMs. Seven major geologic/geomorphic terrains are defined within the landing ellipse and to the edge of Aeolis Palus: alluvial fan, smooth hummocky plains, bright-toned “rugged” terrains, flat-lying cratered plains/surfaces, “striated” light-toned outcrops, light-toned bedded-fractured surfaces, and cross-bedded ‘washboard’ unit. Initial stratigraphic models of these units have been proposed based on orbital observations and the traverse from Bradbury Landing to Pahrump Hills. The geologic map was used plan the initial traverse to a unit contact ~500 m east at “Yellowknife Bay”, where the first drill sample on Mars revealed a habitable environment within a long-lasting pH-neutral lake. The geologic map was also key to planning the route from Yellowknife Bay to the lower reaches of Mt. Sharp, where Curiosity continues to explore today.