How big is Mount Sharp? A comparison with mountains on Earth

The best view of Mount Sharp from Curiosity so far. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Mount Sharp is a large mountain in the centre of Gale crater on Mars, where the Curiosity rover landed a few days ago. Composed of many sedimentary layers, it provides a geological record of Mars’ history going back billions of years. But how large is it? It might be hard to tell from the initial raw images sent back by Curiosity so far, but it is big, really big.

Comparison of Mount Sharp with some mountains on Earth. The tallest portion of each mountain is shown to scale. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

At about 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) tall, it is larger than any mountain in the United States except for Mount McKinley. In the next days and weeks, higher-resolution and colour images will be taken by Curiosity, and as Mount Sharp is a primary target of the rover (yes, it will go mountain climbing!), it should be quite an adventure.

Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.


  1. The question to ask is, how tall is Mars’ Mount Olympus in relation to the Terran ranges?

    You’ll be blown away to find that it’s 14 miles high, and 300 miles wide!

      1. I think the trouble with landing on or near Olympus or the Tharsis Montes is they are too far above datum – not enough atmosphere to slow down in time. Perhaps a balloon or other aircraft would be able to get there.

        1. Of course; it would be very difficult to land on directly. Just thought if a rover could start from the bottom, as with Curiosity and Mount Sharp. The view from a balloon or plane near the top of Olympus Mons would be breathtaking!

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