Wednesday, October 4, 2023

NASA’s “Curiosity” reaches the ridge of Mars, where water has left piles of debris

After three attempts, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has now reached the ridge and captured the formation in a 360-degree panoramic mosaic. Previous forays have been hampered by razor-sharp “gator back” rocks and steep slopes. After one of the most difficult climbs the mission has ever faced, Curiosity reached an area on August 14 where it could examine the long-sought ridge with its 7-foot (2-meter) robotic arm.

“After three years, we finally found a location where Mars allowed Curiosity safe access to the steep ridge,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “It’s exciting to be able to reach and touch rocks transported from places high up on Mount Sharp that we will never be able to visit with Curiosity.”

The rover has been climbing the lower part of the 3-mile (5-kilometer) Mount Sharp since 2014, discovering evidence of ancient lakes and streams. Different layers of the mountain represent different eras of Mars’ history. As Curiosity grows, scientists are learning more about how the landscape has changed over time. The Gediz Vallis Ridge was among the last formations on the mountain, making it one of the youngest geological time capsules Curiosity will see.

Rare look

The rover spent 11 days on the ridge, busily taking photos and studying the composition of the dark rocks that clearly originated elsewhere on the mountain. The debris flows that helped form the Gediz Vallis Ridge carried these stones—and others further down the ridgeline, some the size of cars—down from layers high up on Mount Sharp. These rocks provide a rare glimpse of material from the upper mountain for Curiosity to study.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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