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Mars spacecraft gets a landing site.

It doesn't look like much, just a strip of gentle, rolling plains. And that's precisely the point. The region on the Red Planet that NASA NASA: see National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
 in full National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Independent U.S.
 has chosen as the landing site for the Mars Polar Lander The Mars Polar Lander was part of the NASA Mars Surveyor '98 program, which consisted of two spacecraft launched separately, the Mars Climate Orbiter (formerly the Mars Surveyor '98 Orbiter) and the Mars Polar Lander (formerly the Mars Surveyor '98 Lander). , expected to touch down on Dec. 3, has slopes no steeper than 10 degrees. Most of it is considerably flatter.

"We chose a location with some surface features but no cliffs or jagged peaks" so that the spacecraft can land safely yet still accomplish its research goals, says project scientist Richard W. Zurek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory “JPL” redirects here. For other uses, see JPL (disambiguation).

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a NASA research center located in the cities of Pasadena and La CaƱada Flintridge, near Los Angeles, California, USA.
 in Pasadena, Calif. Unlike Mars Pathfinder, which landed on a hillier Hillier is a surname, and may refer to:
  • Bevis Hillier English art historian, author and journalist
  • David Hillier English former footballer.
  • Erwin Hillier German-born cinematographer known for his work in British cinema
 region in 1997, the lander won't have airbags to cushion its touchdown.

The smooth region lies near the northern edge of the Mars south pole's layered terrain. NASA announced its decision Aug. 25 at a press briefing in Washington, D.C.

The mission will study the layers of dust and ice that cover the pole. Changes in the thickness of these layers may indicate variations in climate over the past hundreds of thousands of years. The lander will also look for soil particles that could have formed in ancient Martian seas and later blew into the polar areas.

Ultrasharp images and laser altimeter altimeter (ăltĭm`ĭtər, ăl`tĭmē'tər), device for measuring altitude. The most common type is an aneroid barometer calibrated to show the drop in atmospheric pressure in terms of linear elevation as an airplane,  measurements gathered by the Mars Global Surveyor The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was a US spacecraft developed by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996. It began the United States's return to Mars after a 20-year absence.  spacecraft, which continues to orbit the Red Planet, were key to selecting a site. Launched in January, the lander will arrive at the end of Martian spring, a time when the sun never sets. The continuous sunshine will power the craft for 90 days. The beginning of Martian fall, when the sun dips below the horizon, will signal the end of the mission.
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Title Annotation:Mars Polar Lander to touch down in December
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 18, 1999
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