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Mars Science Laboratory

Mission Engineering Constraints:

Because the ability to ensure a successful landing for MSL is paramount, consideration of landing sites must include comprehensive assessment of limitations imposed by mission engineering constraints. Although these constraints continue to be established and refined, a description of preliminary values related to allowable locations, elevation, and surface properties follows.

  • Full Engineering Constraints Guide, version 4.5 (PDF)
  • Planetary Protection Categorization letter for MSL (PDF)


  • 10 km diameter landing circle.
  • Latitude range (45, -45).
  • Below +1 km MOLA elevation.
  • Entire landing site must be radar reflective.
  • Slope:
    • Long wavelength: slopes over 2-5 km length scales <3.
    • Intermediate wavelength: slopes over 200 m length scales <5°.
    • Intermediate wavelength: slopes over 20 m length scales <15.
    • Short wavelength: slopes over 5 m length scales <15.
  • Rocks higher than 0.55 m, thus intermediate or lower rock
  • Load bearing surface not dominated by dust, thus moderate thermal inertia and moderate albedo acceptable.
  • Must not have persistent cold surfaces and CO2 frost

Tools to visualize some of these parameters can be found at at Mars-o-web and the USGS PIGWAD site.

Note: All persons planning to participate in the workshop should review the science, engineering, and planetary protection constraints carefully, as only those landing sites that meet these constraints will be accepted for presentation at the workshop.

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