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tuvas
As there are some pictures being released from HiRISE of proposed MSL landing sites, I thought I'd give you what little I know about the process. As of the HiRISE team meeting a month ago or so, there were about 40 proposed sites to land MSL. These sites were prioritized, and are being photographed roughly in priority order. Each site requires a picture from each of the 3 main cameras (CTX, CRISM, and HiRISE) in their highest resolution in order to proceed. If it's determined that there can be a safe landing site, as well as interesting science targets, then they will advance to the next level, where I presume they will "wallpaper" the areas with HiRISE and CRISM (CTX, well, they get the whole landing ellipse in one shot, I think...). They likely will also photograph science areas near the proposed sites to look for interesting targets. After that, well, your guess is as good as mine. Note that none of this is official, but it's what I would expect. Also note that the landing site selection is still opened to new suggestions, the ones they have so far are not a complete list. The priority also doesn't mean anything right now other than they are the targets which will be photographed first, these priorities are still subject to change. But, well, I thought I'd send this out there for you all sink your teeth on, it really is quite interesting!
monitorlizard
Great to get the inside scoop on the MSL landing site process, tuvas. Do you know if all 40 sites will get high resolution stereo coverage by HiRISE, or is that being saved for the short list later?

The wonderful thing about covering so many sites at such high resolution is that many of the places not chosen for MSL will come up again as proposals for Exo-Mars, the astrobiology rover, etc. This data set will be valuable WAY into the future.
nprev
Tuvas, are you allowed to post the locations of any (or all! smile.gif ) of the 40? Please don't do so if this would violate any of your organization's policies, but I'm sure we'd all be fascinated by this first cut...particularly since sifting through the torrent of MRO data alone is pretty much impossible unless you're rich enough to have a few score RAIDs & associated processing capability...
mcaplinger
QUOTE (nprev @ Apr 5 2007, 09:02 PM) *
Tuvas, are you allowed to post the locations of any (or all! smile.gif ) of the 40?

http://themis.asu.edu/landingsites/
Pavel
I remember one of the requirement was that the landing site would be inhospitable to life, so that the lander doesn't introduce some microorganisms to a place where they could survive. Any astrobiological missions would probably go a place where some present microbial life is possible, e.g. next to volcanoes or to the bottom of Vallis Marineris.
djellison
The complete process is fully documented here
http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/...op/program.html



First Landing Site Workshop
May 31 through June 2, 2006, Pasadena, California Doug
Phil Stooke
33 sites were shortlisted from about 90 suggested at the first meeting. Three more were just added after being described in a poster at LPSC, and all can be seen illustrated at the THEMIS MSL landing site support page:

http://themis.asu.edu/landingsites/

Phil
tuvas
QUOTE (monitorlizard @ Apr 5 2007, 05:33 PM) *
Great to get the inside scoop on the MSL landing site process, tuvas. Do you know if all 40 sites will get high resolution stereo coverage by HiRISE, or is that being saved for the short list later?

The wonderful thing about covering so many sites at such high resolution is that many of the places not chosen for MSL will come up again as proposals for Exo-Mars, the astrobiology rover, etc. This data set will be valuable WAY into the future.


I think HiRISE Stereo will be saved for the short list of targets. Most of the landings sites for MSL are chosen in relatively bland areas, for instance, the Marwth Vallis landing site is relatively close, but definitely not, the same as the first HiRISE transition phase image location. That area is absolutely amazing, but unfortunately not an area that one would try to land a rover... But it is a possibility to go after landing. I'm almost afraid some of the sites are going to have some bitter fights as to where to go first/next, due to the fact that MSL can actually land next to some very cool stuff, whereas the rovers had to land in relatively flat areas. MSL can actually move outside of it's projected landing ellipse, very much a plus!
elakdawalla
Since HiROC doesn't have a handy index to landing site imagery like ASU does for Odyssey, perhaps it'd be useful to post links here to the proposed MSL site images as they get released at HiROC.

From the 28 March release:
Proposed MSL Site in Becquerel Crater PSP_001480_2015
Proposed MSL Site in Margaritifer Basin PSP_002193_1670
Proposed MSL Site in Melas Chasma PSP_002551_1700
Proposed MSL Site in Nili Fossae Crater PSP_002743_1985
Proposed MSL Site in NE Syrtis Major PSP_002809_1965
Proposed MSL Site in Elysium/Avernus Colles PSP_002832_1770
Proposed MSL site in Xanthe/Hypanis Vallis PSP_002919_1915

From the 4 April release:
Proposed MSL Site in Southwest Arabia Terra PSP_002812_1855
Proposed MSL Site in Mawrth Vallis PSP_003063_2050
Proposed MSL Site in Nili Fossae Trough PSP_003086_2015

--Emily
tuvas
QUOTE (elakdawalla @ Apr 6 2007, 10:19 AM) *
Since HiROC doesn't have a handy index to landing site imagery like ASU does for Odyssey


Just wait, it's coming... Sometime relatively soon, meaning the next two months, there's going to be a site redesign that'll make it easier to find images, along with reprocessing of the images to improve calibration, etc. But for now, it can be useful to have such a cheat sheet.
lyford
Wow - thanks Emily - this is incredibly helpful - YOU ROCK!*

Quite a bit of diversity in those pics, but I always have a soft spot for Melas Chasma. Now, whether Melas has a soft spot for MSL to land remains to be seen - unsure.gif Given a landing ellipse of 10km, are we confident with the skycrane steering clear to level terrain in that frame?


*Sorry, my 80's were showing.
algorimancer
I vote for the Hellas location. Lowest point on Mars, highest atmospheric pressure, layered deposits, channels, and generally unlike any other place visited thus far. Good stuff.
nprev
Me too; seems like that's where MSL might have the best chance of finding small, isolated patches of no-kidding mud at certain times of the year! Plus, I'd imagine that the denser air might reduce terminal EDL risks at least a bit.
Greg Hullender
Just as long as there's no actual risk of it getting stuck in the mud.

--Greg :-)
SFJCody
Surely one of the most important lessons from MER is that interesting chemical signatures seen from orbit (Meridiani) are more likely to result in interesting geology on the surface than interesting morphological features (Gusev). As they only have one MSL I hope they go for a phyllosilicate site.
babakm
Although the Meridiani sites will be a "safer" bet and would certainly help advance our knowledge of the processes that led to the hematite deposits, I can't help but think that there are a lot more new/interesting options out there. We can come back to Meridiani a few rovers from now.
SFJCody
QUOTE (babakm @ Apr 7 2007, 02:34 PM) *
Although the Meridiani sites will be a "safer" bet and would certainly help advance our knowledge of the processes that led to the hematite deposits, I can't help but think that there are a lot more new/interesting options out there. We can come back to Meridiani a few rovers from now.




Agreed, although I think that the best way of studying Meridiani as a whole would be with large static landers capable of drilling 100+m into the ground.
centsworth_II
QUOTE (SFJCody @ Apr 7 2007, 06:16 AM) *
...interesting chemical signatures seen from orbit (Meridiani) are more likely to result
in interesting geology on the surface than interesting morphological features (Gusev)....

It could be argued that the geology of the Columbia Hills is more interesting than
that of Meridiani.

"...composition as well as the variability along the traverse changed dramatically
once the rover reached the base of the Columbia Hills..."

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2006/pdf/2176.pdf

In fact, it would be interesting to see, if the only choices were the Columbia Hills
or Victoria Crater, where most Mars geologists would prefer to send an MSL.
nprev
That's a really good argument re "follow the clays", SFJ. Targeting hematite with Oppy certainly yielded findings beyond all expectations almost from Sol 0; minerology does seem to trump morphology in all relevant particulars for a mission like MSL.
Greg Hullender
QUOTE (SFJCody @ Apr 7 2007, 06:45 AM) *
. . . I think that the best way of studying Meridiani as a whole would be with large static landers capable of drilling 100+m into the ground.


Strictly speaking, I think that's the best way of studying Meridianai as a hole.

--Greg :-)
nprev
Okay, that's the worst pun of the week...you get the virtual prize of 100 quatloos & a cookie... smile.gif
edstrick
Considering that a mission requirement for MSL is kilometers, with ?tens? of km planned for post primary misison operations, the overriding secondary requirement for a site is accessible diversity. Yeah, that's a contradiction in terms. The overriding primary requirement is to target geology made of materials of biological and/or origins-of-life significance. There is a preliminary consensus that materials LIKE the phyllosilicate bearing terrains are top candidates.

To a certain extent, Meridiani sulfate dune deposits are "been there, done that", though we would learn much more from a revisit with new instrumentation. But there are other, vastly more complicated, exposures of Meridiani layered deposits, some in spectacular "etched" badlands in the central part and north-east parts of Meridiani Sinus (the old albedo feature.. the split in the Sinus: "Dawes Forked Bay" is actually an Earth-observable patch of high albedo badlands.

Oppy's Meridiani plains are geologically boring on the level of "if you've seen several stratigraphic sections, you've seen them all" Victoria will let us go deeper stratigraphically than Endurance, but all the evidence so far is that it's "more of the same with variations". The landing site was ideal for Opportunity, especially with it's extended treks to Endurance, the etched terrain, Erebus and Victoria, but the MSL rover would probably need to go 100 km or some large amount to get to dramatically different materials, if it was landed in Eagle crater.

Spirit was lucky. The basalt plain on the floor of Gusev was a near-disaster, though we would still have learned far more about martian surficial geology in lava plains than we learned from Vikings and Pathfinder. The pure luck in landing close enough to the uber-diverse geology of the Columbia hills made all the difference in the mission.

A "Best" landing site for MSL will be more like Gusev than Meridiani -- We will go to check out a primary mission objective set of geologic formations and materials, but we will want to have the maximum possible "go to" diversity of geologic materials of diverse geologic ages, once we've checked out and worked over the primary target. The more utterly distinct the accessible terrains, and the more different in ages the materials they can reach, the more transforming MSL will be to what we know of Mars, compared with what we will know from Viking/Pathfiner/MER/Phoenix. Spirit on Gusev lava plains, unable to reach older terrain, would have extended our knowledge. In the hills, it's transforming it.
djellison
MSL's a bit open ended really - some of the landing sites include a 10km 'drive to' from a safe landing site nearby.

Doug
nprev
Gotta love it...hopefully the 4th generation rovers will get hundreds of kms! smile.gif
elakdawalla
An updated list of MSL sites as seen from MRO, including the May 2 releases:

From the 28 March release:
Proposed MSL Site in Becquerel Crater PSP_001480_2015
Proposed MSL Site in Margaritifer Basin PSP_002193_1670
Proposed MSL Site in Melas Chasma PSP_002551_1700
Proposed MSL Site in Nili Fossae Crater PSP_002743_1985
Proposed MSL Site in NE Syrtis Major PSP_002809_1965
Proposed MSL Site in Elysium/Avernus Colles PSP_002832_1770
Proposed MSL site in Xanthe/Hypanis Vallis PSP_002919_1915

From the 4 April release:
Proposed MSL Site in Southwest Arabia Terra PSP_002812_1855
Proposed MSL Site in Mawrth Vallis PSP_003063_2050
Proposed MSL Site in Nili Fossae Trough PSP_003086_2015

From the 2 May release:
Proposed MSL Site in Eberswalde Crater PSP_003222_1565
Proposed MSL Site in Nilo Syrtis PSP_003231_2095
Proposed MSL Site in Juventae Chasma PSP_003368_1755

--Emily
AlexBlackwell
For those playing along at home, the MSL Landing Site Selection Userís Guide to Engineering Constraints has been updated slightly (to Version 3). See http://webgis.wr.usgs.gov/msl/Engineering.htm to download.
tuvas
QUOTE (AlexBlackwell @ May 3 2007, 03:04 PM) *
For those playing along at home, the MSL Landing Site Selection Userís Guide to Engineering Constraints has been updated slightly (to Version 3). See http://webgis.wr.usgs.gov/msl/Engineering.htm to download.


Wow, no big rocks, but not too much dust either... AFAIK, that's a pretty rare combination anywhere, I guess they want to land it in something akin to gravel... At least, that's what I'm gathering...
elakdawalla
I think something more like "indurated soil" would be best -- that is, something that doesn't move with the wind, but that won't be too hard to dig through.

Has anybody here thought through whether that recent Odyssey THEMIS release about ground ice being patchy has anything to do with MSL landing site selection?

--Emily
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (tuvas @ May 3 2007, 12:35 PM) *
Wow, no big rocks, but not too much dust either... AFAIK, that's a pretty rare combination anywhere...

Similar rock abundance and dustiness constraints were in place for MER. And with a much narrower latitude band, and larger landing ellipses, they still had 150+ candidate landing sites at the start of the process.
stewjack
The Riding with Robots Podcast has an interview with Ashwin Vasavada, Jpl's Deputy Project Scientist on MSL.

It's basically a 20 minute summary of MSL's planned capabilities. I learned a few things, but then - I haven't spent a lot of time learning about MSL. wink.gif

Podcast Site
http://web.mac.com/bdunford/iWeb/Riding_wi...st/Podcast.html

Jack
Oren Iishi
I'm surprised that no one has talked about landing near the newly discovered Martian blackholes or possibly the guyser at the pole (although they may be too dangerous). At the very least, MSL should land somewhere that is not favorable to solar powered rovers.
algorimancer
Considering the moderately persuasive argument supporting the notion of a past ocean in the northern hemisphere, as reported in the current issue of Nature (http://www.nature.com.libux.utmb.edu/nature/journal/v447/n7146/full/nature05873.html - if you have access), I would be inclined to shift my preference to a landing site which would be near exposed sediments from the floor of that ocean, perhaps in delta deposits. To me, the odds are that if any macroscopic life ever evolved on Mars, it would have been in this ocean, and sedimentary deposits from the bottom of the ocean would be the best places to look for fossils, as well as a sedimentary sequence which tells an interesting story. I'm not sure whether there would be any benefit to traversing the remnant shoreline itself.

I'm having trouble matching landing site candidates with the map in the paper, but Nilo Syrtis and Marwth Vallis might be good.
ngunn
Agreed. In the absence of large scale drilling equipment it would be useful to visit a relatively fresh crater that has excavated through marine sediments.
ynyralmaen
QUOTE (algorimancer @ Jun 17 2007, 04:51 PM) *
... but Nilo Syrtis and Marwth Vallis might be good.


Mawrth, not Marwth. It's Welsh for, er, Mars. mars.gif

I hope I'm not appearing to be super-pedantic here; it's just that this is a very common spelling mistake (looks like it derives from a MEX OMEGA Science paper, and some related press releases where they got it wrong.). rolleyes.gif

If you're wondering about the pronunciation, it's similar to "Martha" without the second "a"!
algorimancer
QUOTE (ynyralmaen @ Jun 18 2007, 05:39 AM) *
Mawrth, not Marwth. It's Welsh for, er, Mars. mars.gif
...
If you're wondering about the pronunciation, it's similar to "Martha" without the second "a"!


Funny, I actually went to some effort to get the spelling right, and still missed it. Pronunciation sounds like "Mars" with a lisp smile.gif. Perhaps all lispers are Welsh? wink.gif
ynyralmaen
QUOTE (algorimancer @ Jun 18 2007, 02:12 PM) *
Perhaps all lispers are Welsh? wink.gif


No, but having a lisp often helps! wink.gif

Now that I've had longer to think about it, forget Martha... the pronunciation's exactly like "mouth", but with an "r" slipped in before the "th".

(Don't get me started on Pwyll crater on Europa!)
AlexBlackwell
QUOTE (ngunn @ Jun 17 2007, 11:35 PM) *
Agreed. In the absence of large scale drilling equipment it would be useful to visit a relatively fresh crater that has excavated through marine sediments.

Hmm. Where have I heard that before? Someplace named Gusev or something.
ngunn
Aye, and the other one. wink.gif
Geographer
Why does elevation matter in designing the rover? I can understand latitude mattering because of communications with an orbiter, but elevation?
djellison
The higher you go - the less air your parachute has to work with. 'lower' altitiudes make for an easier landing.

Doug
AlexBlackwell
You might want to take a look at the latest version of the MSL engineering constraints document, which discusses the elevation limitations.
edstrick
The more pounds per square foot (grams per square centimeter) of vehicle you have behind a heatshield (and a bigger vehicle is more or less inevitably deeper, front to back with more "column mass"), the less the atmosphere can slow you down before you do "ares-braking" instead of "aero-braking"...

zip..... CRUNCH!

I'm going to be off by a factor of a few times, but here's a zero'h order armwave...

Earth. 1 atmosphere surface pressure. 14 pounds (mass) of air per square inch.

Mars. 1/200'th atmosphere surface pressure. That's about 10 ounces / 30 grams per square inch. Double that (roughly) to compensate for gravity. How many ounces per square inch is the MSL in it's heat shield? There's only so many pounds of atmosphere in the way of a so many pound entry vehicle trying to slow it down.

When an entry vehicle masses more than a column of atmosphere of the same diameter between surface and space, it just can't slow down a vehicle before the vehicle hits. Would a column of atmosphere (along an entry trajectory) massing the same as an entry vehicle slow it down 50%... very very roughly, I think so (ignoring gravity).
PDP8E
After looking at all the MRO landing site images and counting rocks and such, it just makes sense to this complete amateur that the only place to set down MSL is on/near the famous ice packs of Elysium Planatia.

water? / ice? / extant life?

What would I add to the mission?
...bring an industrial sized RAT and BRUSH

for more info, Google: ice packs mars

Click to view attachment

Click to view attachment
Phil Stooke
Elysium Planitia (AKA ice pack) might look like a good landing site, but there are some problems with it. First, it might be classed as a "special region", which MSL will not be sufficiently sterilized to land in. In the event of a crash, the RTG could encounter ice and create a warm water oasis (not very big, certainly, but still viable). This is not allowed for MSL. (Phoenix should encounter ice, but it will remain very cold).

Second, MSL's instruments don't suit it. A drill might be needed to get to any ice. This could be an ideal spot for a thoroughly sterilized deep drill mission in the future.

Also, Elysium Planitia is really a one target site. Once you have looked at one location, what is there to do? It's quite uniform. MSL is designed to explore up and down a stack of sediments, or a similar multi-target site. For this reason, MSL would also be wasted on one of the 'windows' mentioned in a post above.

An ideal MSL site will have dozens of distinct targets within about 10 or 15 km of the landing site, plus a potential for a really good extended mission with many more targets over a much longer traverse.

Phil
climber
QUOTE (Phil Stooke @ Jul 13 2007, 05:53 PM) *
Elysium Planitia (AKA ice pack) might look like a good landing site, but there are some problems with it. First, it might be classed as a "special region", which MSL will not be sufficiently sterilized to land in.

Can somebody explain me why some part of Phoenix are sterilized at 300.000 spore/m≤ while the arm is at 1 spore/m≤ (source Phoenix-Launch-presskit)?
I mean, why can we sterilize MSL with the later value at least for the parts in contact with Mars ?

PS : not only there is a risk of crash for MSL RTG's but also the Crane (or whaterver you call it) will definitively crash anyway.
James Sorenson
Depending on what NASA's "Major" finding's that they plan to announce, and the final science results from the phoenix mission, Im wondering if Vastitas Borealis could be added to the allready 6 final landing sites for MSL?. Phoenix's landing site looks sofar VERY science rich, and worthy for exploration for another mission pancam.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif .
vjkane
QUOTE (James Sorenson @ Aug 3 2008, 10:38 PM) *
Depending on what NASA's "Major" finding's that they plan to announce, and the final science results from the phoenix mission, Im wondering if Vastitas Borealis could be added to the allready 6 final landing sites for MSL?. Phoenix's landing site looks sofar VERY science rich, and worthy for exploration for another mission pancam.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif wheel.gif .

I believe that anything that far north would violate the minimum temperature limits.
mcaplinger
QUOTE (vjkane @ Aug 3 2008, 03:10 PM) *
I believe that anything that far north would violate the minimum temperature limits.

True, though the limits are not entirely based on temperature. All sites must be within 45 degrees of the equator and meet other constraints. See http://webgis.wr.usgs.gov/msl/Engineering.htm
nprev
Mike, could you go into more detail about the lat limitations? Only thing I can think of besides temp is relay satellite availability, and that's far from guaranteed during the mission timeline; it's a somewhat puzzling constraint.
mcaplinger
QUOTE (nprev @ Aug 3 2008, 04:24 PM) *
Mike, could you go into more detail about the lat limitations?

It's mostly to do with total energy for heating of things that aren't warmed by the RTG waste heat. There are also DTE and relay geometry constraints. The site I linked to has details (in the PDF document http://webgis.wr.usgs.gov/msl/docs/MSL_Eng...uide_v4.5.1.pdf .)
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