(ORDO NEWS) — NASA‘s Curiosity rover recently arrived at Mount Sharp’s salt-rich region. Scientists suggest that billions of years ago, streams and lakes dried up and left behind these deposits.
Assuming their hypothesis is correct, the discovered minerals could suggest why the Red Planet’s climate has changed from Earth-like to a frozen desert.
The minerals were discovered by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter a few years before Curiosity landed in 2012, so scientists had to wait a long time to see the area up close.
Shortly after arriving, the rover found many rock types and signs of past water, including popcorn-textured concretions and salt rock minerals such as magnesium sulfate, calcium sulfate, and sodium chloride.
The team selected the rock, which they named “Kanaima”, for the mission’s 36th drilling sample. The mission’s scientists are eagerly awaiting the results of the analysis, which is being carried out using the Chemical and Mineralogical Instrument (CheMin) and the Mars Sample Analysis (SAM) instrument.
The road to the sulfate-rich region lay through difficult terrain. In August this year, the rover passed through the sandy Paraitepuy Pass, which meanders between high hills. It took Curiosity over a month to finally reach its destination.
Exploring the new region won’t be easy either: despite its scientific appeal, the rocky terrain makes it difficult to find a spot where all six Curiosity wheels are on stable ground.
“The more interesting the scientific results become, the more challenges Mars seems to throw at us,” the researchers said.
The rover, which recently celebrated its tenth year on Mars, and its crew are ready for new adventures.
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