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Mars rover Curiosity photo shows Grand Canyon-like landscape

Photos from Mars rover Curiosity show a Grand Canyon-like terrain on the Red Planet.

NASA unveiled the images Monday as Curiosity prepares to take its first road trip.

As The Times' Amina Khan reported:

The scientists displayed new images of the rover’s ultimate target: the base of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mound in the middle of Gale Crater that scientists believe holds a record of the planet’s history, and potentially even some of the ingredients for life.

Mount Sharp’s base features well-defined layers in patterns reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, project scientist John Grotzinger said Monday at a news conference.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Grotzinger said, indicating the watercolor layers.

The team also tested part of the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, which can digest and analyze rock, and found it was in good working order.

PANORAMA: Tire tracks on Mars | PHOTOS: Color images from Mars

Within several days, the rover is set to take off for its first potential drill target, Glenelg, where three types of terrain meet. 

Click for more photos

Controllers aren’t sure how long the drive may take, as they may stop to check out interesting things along the way, said deputy project scientist Joy Crisp. For example, the team plans to make a pit stop if it finds soil fine enough to practice using its scooping tool.

NASA officials also announced that the touchdown spot has been officially named "Bradbury Landing," in honor of the renowned science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who died earlier this year.

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Photo: In this image released by NASA, a chapter in the layered geological history of Mars is laid bare. It shows the base of Mount Sharp, the rover's eventual science destination, and is part of a larger image taken by Curiosity's 100-millimeter Mast Camera. Scientists enhanced the color in one version to show the scene under the lighting conditions that exist on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain. The pointy mound in the center is about 1,000 feet across and 300 feet high. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

 
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