Mount Sharp on Mars Courtesy of NASA/JPL
The dream of having humans explore the surface of Mars is one on which NASA is hard at work. But until that time comes, we still have some very awesome science being conducted by our rover counterpart, Curiosity.
Since 2014, NASA’s Curiosity Rover has been climbing Mount Sharp. Rising 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the base of Gale Crater, this area has proven to be an excellent place for investigation.
This is largely because there are several regions that are especially intriguing since they each represent a different period in the history of Mount Sharp.
As highlighted in the video, the chief among these interesting areas is a clay-bearing unit where Curiosity just started analyzing rock samples. Clay is especially exciting because it typically only forms where water was once (or is still) present.
Other intriguing targets along the rover’s proposed path include the rocky cliffs of the sulfate-bearing unit, where the sulfate minerals might be an indication of drying in ancient Martian times.
Because sulfates are salts that form when sulfuric acid reacts with another chemical, this could be a good indication that this area was once very wet. In fact, cutting a path through the sulfate unit is an area known as Gediz Vallis.
This area is believed to be a dried riverbed, and Curiosity will be studying this, too, as it continues its ascending journey of Mount Sharp.
Visiting these places is the key for scientists to learn more about the history of water on the mountain which will unlock better understanding as to how climate changes occurred and why water disappeared from Mars billions of years ago.