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The interns of the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Academy (LPSA) prepare to explore the Grand Canyon, one of the best places to study Mars without leaving Earth. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Allison Duh
When NASA's Curiosity rover sent back its first pictures of Mount Sharp on Mars, the resemblance to Earth's Grand Canyon was striking. The sculpted landscape at the base of Mount Sharp is filled with buttes, mesas and hills, their thick layers prominent even from a distance. The two terrains are similar enough, geologically speaking, that planetary scientists can use the Grand Canyon as an analog—a site where they can do field work to help understand the history of Mars. Those similarities drew the interns of the 2012 Lunar and Planetary Science Academy (LPSA) to Arizona to do field work in the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and other Mars analog sites.
LPSA is a summer internship in planetary science run by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., under Principal Investigator Cynthia Cheung. Highlights from the trip are presented in this slideshow and in the students' blog at http://lpsaarizona.blogspot.com/.