The NASA Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Project has been considering a landing-site ellipse designated EP78B2 in southeastern Utopia Planitia, southwest of Elysium Mons. The site appears to be relatively safe for a MER landing site because of its predicted low wind velocities in mesoscale atmospheric circulation models and its low surface roughness at various scales as indicated by topographic and imaging data sets. Previously, the site's surface rocks have been interpreted to be marine sediments or lava flows. In addition, we suggest that Late Noachian to Early Hesperian collapse and mass wasting of Noachian highland rocks contributed to the deposition of detritus in the area of the ellipse. Furthermore, we document partial Late Hesperian to Early Amazonian resurfacing of the ellipse by flows and vents that may be of mud or silicate volcanic origin. A rover investigation of the Utopia landing site using the MER Athena instrument package might address some fundamental aspects of Martian geologic evolution, such as climate change, hydrologic evolution, and magmatic and tectonic history. Copyright 2003 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional Publication Details
Geology of the MER 2003 "Elysium" candidate landing site in southeastern Utopia Planitia, Mars