NASA’s Curiosity Probe Unearths Previous Evidence of Ancient Water

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover captured this view of layered and crusty rocks that are thought to have formed in an ancient stream or small pond.

Over the past ten years, the Curiosity probe has traveled across the terrain of Mars in search of evidence of it The past of the potentially habitable planet. Recently, the car-sized robot traveled through a transition zone, moving from an area that may have previously hosted surface lakes to an area indicative of drier conditions on the Red Planet.

NASA agency Curiosity roaming He took note of the change in the landscape higher up on the summit of Mount Mars, which the robot has been climbing since 2014. The 3.4-mile (5 kilometer) high Mount Sharp is the central summit of Mars’ Gale Crater, the rover exploring ancient water traces. At the base of Mount Sharp, Curiosity has collected evidence of clay minerals It formed from the lakes and streams that used to run through Gale Crater. But high up on the mountain, those streams seem to have dried up into droplets and sand dunes that formed over the lake sediments.

This so-called transition zone is characterized by a transformation from a region rich in mud to one filled with salty mineral sulfate, and could indicate a significant shift in the Martian climate that occurred billions of years ago. The higher Curiosity is on Mount Sharp, the less mud it detects, and more sulfates. Curiosity will soon begin drilling the last rock sample collected in the transition zone in hopes of learning more about the change in the mineral composition of the rocks in that area.

“We no longer see the lake sediments that we saw years ago low on Mount Sharp,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. new version. Instead, we see plenty of evidence of drier climates, such as dry sand dunes that were sometimes swirled by streams. This is a big change from lakes that lasted for millions of years before.”

The Curiosity rover captured this panoramic image of the sulfate-bearing region on Mars.

The Curiosity rover captured this panoramic image of the sulfate-bearing region on Mars.
picture: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

The area Curiosity is currently exploring also includes ridges that may have formed in dry conditions, and those hills feature large, windswept sand dunes that will likely harden into rock over time, according to NASA. Meanwhile, the rover also found evidence of sediment carried by water currents across the sand dunes. These deposits now appear as stacked layers of scaly-looking rock.

Although Mars is a dry, dry planet today, scientists believe it is It may one day be habitable, hosting lakes and other bodies of water on its surface. early in its history, Mars somehow lost part of its atmosphere, and its water dried up. Different robotic The missions of NASA and other space agencies have worked to piece this ancient history together. The newest rover on Mars, the Perseverance, landed on the planet in February 2021 and it was Searching for microfossils—A Preserved Evidence for Ancient Microbial Life.

Because it’s almost 10 years old Anniversary on Mars, Curiosity is starting to show some signs of aging. On June 7, Curiosity entered frightening safe mode when the temperature reading showed warmer-than-normal temperatures, according to NASA. The rover is back in action two days later, but NASA engineers are still looking into the cause of the problem, hoping it won’t affect the rover’s operations as it climbs to the top of a new era in Mars’ history.

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