NewsPlanetary Science

Gambling On a Martian Landing Site

Science  19 Apr 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5260, pp. 347-348
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5260.347


After two-and-a-half years of balancing scientific interest and safety, scientists have chosen a landing site for the Mars Pathfinder mission, which will give planetary scientists their first close-up look at the Martian surface in 20 years. The choice was an exercise in anxiety, because images of the Martian surface are too coarse to show the cliffs and boulders that could spell disaster when the lander drops to the surface. Team members had to rely on inference and guesswork, and that has led them to a flat plain near the Martian equator, formed billions of years ago when a huge flood burst from a narrow channel.