(ORDO NEWS) — The Curiosity rover has finally reached the so-called “sulfate-bearing strata” – a region of Mount Sharp, rich in salty minerals.
They may have been left over from the drying up of water billions of years ago. NASA intends to test this theory.
After passing through a narrow, sandy passage, the Curiosity rover recently arrived at its designated location.
If the hypothesis of the presence of water in this place in the distant past is correct, then under the wheels of the apparatus there may be clues how and why the climate of the Red Planet has changed.
- The minerals in question were discovered by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter a few years before the Curiosity landing in 2012, so scientists have been waiting a long time to see this area up close.
- Shortly after arrival, the rover discovered a wide variety of rock types and signs of long-vanished water, including popcorn-textured concretions and salty minerals containing, for example, magnesium sulfate, calcium sulfate (including gypsum), and sodium chloride (table salt) .
- The journey to the sulfate-rich region took place through difficult terrain, including the sandy Paraitepuy Pass, meandering between high hills. It took the rover more than a month to reach its destination.
- Sharp stones could damage the wheels of the rover, he risked getting stuck in the sand. In addition, the view of the sky, which is necessary for the orientation of Curiosity, was blocked by hills. However, having overcome these risks, the researchers finally saw the desired landscapes.
Every morning we received new images and were just delighted. The sand ridges were magnificent.
You see on them the perfect footprints of a small all-terrain vehicle.
And the rocks were beautiful – we came very close to the walls, – says Elena Amador-French from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, coordinator of scientific operations for Curiosity.
There were no new problems. It is difficult for the rover to find a place where all six wheels of Curiosity could stand firmly on the surface. If the rover is unstable, the engineers won’t risk taking samples.
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