|154 km (96 mi)|
Gale is a
Gale crater, named for
The crater formed when a meteor hit Mars in its early history, about 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. The meteor impact punched a hole in the terrain, and the subsequent explosion ejected rocks and soil that landed around the crater. Layering in the central mound (Aeolis Mons) suggests it is the surviving remnant of an extensive sequence of deposits. Some scientists believe the crater filled in with sediments and, over time, the relentless Martian winds carved Aeolis Mons, which today rises about 5.5 km (3.4 mi) above the floor of Gale—three times higher than the Grand Canyon is deep.
At 10:32 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5, 2012 (1:32 a.m. EDT on Aug. 6, 2012), the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity landed on Mars at 's primary mission (1 Martian year or 687 Earth days) are from −90 °C (−130 °F) to 0 °C (32 °F)., at the foot of the layered mountain inside Gale crater. Curiosity landed within a landing ellipse approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) by 20 km (12 mi). The landing ellipse is about 4,400 m (14,400 ft) below Martian "sea level" (defined as the average elevation around the equator). The expected near-surface atmospheric temperatures at the landing site during Curiosity
Scientists chose Gale as the landing site for Curiosity because it has many signs that water was present over its history. The crater's geology is notable for containing both clays and sulfate minerals, which form in water under different conditions and may also preserve signs of past life. The history of water at Gale, as recorded in its rocks, is giving Curiosity lots of clues to study as it pieces together whether Mars ever could have been a habitat for microbes. Gale Crater contains a number of fans and deltas that provide information about lake levels in the past, including: Pancake Delta, Western Delta, Farah Vallis delta and the Peace Vallis Fan.