[a stereoscopic terrain map of Mars, prepared by the USGS. “Use red-blue glasses (red lens over left eye) to view this three-dimensional image of a canyon eroded into strata, interpreted as sulfate beds on the flanks of Aeolis Mons in Gale crater.”]
In order to chart a feasible path for the wanderings of the Curiosity Rover, the USGS is using a set of high-resolution digital topographic maps prepared by its geophysicists. In determining where Curiosity will roam, a close reading of the lay of the land is required:
“The ideal site must not only contain features of scientific interest but must also have terrain in which the rover can safely land and drive. How rough is the surface? How steep are the slopes? Are there reasonable routes the rover can traverse to reach the scientific targets? Topographic maps, which show not just features’ positions but also their elevations, are needed to answer such questions.”
Details of the USGS’s 1-meter resolution (!) digital topographic models are available here.