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Area 51 marks the Mars landing spot for Curiosity Featured

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The Mars rover Curiosity landed in what mission controllers for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission have officially called Yellowknife, but they have also dubbed it Area 51.

There is no need for conspiracy theorists to place much importance to the name "Area 51" but they still might do so.

The landing spot for the Mars rover Curiosity was dubbed Area 51 because it, just by chance, landed in a one-mile by one-mile square that was referenced as "51". One of them caught the humor in calling it "Area 51".

Actually, the name Area 51 was called so by Dawn Sumner, a geobiologist at the University of California at Davis.

She said, "We've divided the area up into about 1-mile-by-1-mile quads, or squares. And we had volunteers from the science team map each quad. Curiosity happened to land in Quad 51, which is one of the ones I mapped." [USA Today: "Quad 51: Name of Mars base evokes rich parallels on Earth"]

And, the official name "Yellowknife" was so named after the capital of the Northwest Territories in Canada. Geologists discovered the oldest rocks on Earth in that area, and thought it was a suitable name for this area on Mars. The rocks near this landing site for Curiosity are about 4 billion years old.

Sumner stated, "The rocks we're looking at on Mars are also billions of years (old) and so there is a nice relationship that way."

For more on this story, please read the Space.com article "NASA Rover's New Red Planet Address: Yellowknife, Mars".

It ends with: "Curiosity will likely be in Yellowknife for a while (the rover won't even take its first drive for two weeks or so), but eventually the six-wheeled robot will leave the quadrangle to explore more of Gale and to investigate Mount Sharp, the mysterious 3-mile-high (5 km) mountain that rises from the crater's center."

And, "The mission team is not in a big rush. Curiosity's prime mission is slated to last about two Earth years, and the rover's nuclear power source may keep it roaming for considerably longer than that if no key parts break down, researchers have said."


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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University