Gusev Crater was selected as the landing site for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Spirit mission. Located at the outlet of Ma'adim Vallis and 250 km south of the volcano Apollinaris Patera, Gusev is an outstanding site to achieve the goals of the MER mission. The crater could have collected sediments from a variety of sources during its 3.9 Ga history, including fluvial, lacustrine, volcanic, glacial, impact, regional and local aeolian, and global air falls. It is a unique site to investigate the past history of water on Mars, climate and geological changes, and the potential habitability of the planet, which are central science objectives of the MER mission. Because of its complex history and potential diversity, Gusev will allow the testing of a large spectrum of hypotheses with the complete suite of MER instruments. Evidence consistent with long-lived lake episodes exist in the landing ellipse area. They might offer a unique opportunity to study, for the first time, Martian aqueous sediments and minerals formed in situ in their geological context. We review the geological history and diversity of the landing site, the science hypotheses that can be tested during the MER mission, and the relevance of Gusev to the MER mission objectives and payload.
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