Selecting the Next Off-Road Tour of Mars
Because Earthlings only get one chance every 26 months to send a spacecraft to Mars, it's important to make the most of every opportunity and to get there safely. Scientists and engineers are in the process of selecting five finalists from 36 proposed landing sites for NASA's next Mars rover, in the Mars Science Laboratory mission.
Finding the right landing site is a little like a treasure hunt, using a variety of clues from the Mars Odyssey and other orbiters. The objective is to find a smooth yet firm landing site within reach of interesting places to explore. Mars Odyssey images help scientists differentiate dusty, sandy areas from rocky areas.