The area in and near the landing site selected for landing of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory offers a diversity of possible targets for examination by the mission's rover, Curiosity.
For scale, the landing target ellipse indicated on this image is 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) by 15.5 miles (25 kilometers).
The Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft is being prepared for launch during the period November 25 to December 18, 2011. In a prime mission lasting one Martian year -- nearly two Earth years -- after landing, researchers will use the rover's tools to study whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech