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Curiosity Mars rover reaches 2,000 sol milestone

This mosaic taken by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover looks uphill at Mount Sharp, which Curiosity has been climbing since 2014. Highlighted in white is an area with clay-bearing rocks that scientists are eager to explore as it could shed additional light on the role of water in creating Mount Sharp. The mosaic was assembled from dozens of images taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera and was taken on Sol 1,931 back in January. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This mosaic taken by NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover looks uphill at Mount Sharp, which Curiosity has been climbing since 2014. Highlighted in white is an area with clay-bearing rocks that scientists are eager to explore as it could shed additional light on the role of water in creating Mount Sharp. The mosaic was assembled from dozens of images taken by Curiosity’s Mast Camera and was taken on Sol 1,931 back in January. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover team celebrated the vehicle’s 2,000th Martian day, or sol, on the Red Planet on March 22, 2018.  An image mosaic taken in January shows the rover’s next major scientific target, an area with clay-bearing rocks that researchers have studied from orbit.

Because the formation of clay minerals requires water, the rocks ahead could provide additional information about the presence of water at Gale Crater, how long it remained there and whether the ancient environment may have been suitable for life.

Scientist’s with the Curiosity mission said they are looking forward to analyzing rock samples from the clay-bearing rocks in the area of the image that is highlighted in white. In February, the rover tested its drill again for the first time since December 2016. The new method for drilling rock samples and delivering them to the rover’s science instruments is still being refined.

Curiosity has traveled 11.6 miles (18.7 kilometers) since landing in August 2012. In 2013, rover found evidence that Gale Crater once had an ancient freshwater-lake environment that possessed the basic chemical ingredients to support microbial life.

Since reaching the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in 2014, Curiosity has studied environments shaped by both water and wind. After examining over 600 vertical feet (182.88 meters) of rock with evidence of groundwater, the NASA said the mission’s science team has concluded that habitable conditions in the area persisted for at least millions of years.

Video courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

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Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

Reader Comments

charles vashaw

I keep wondering if the rover could spot anchient pictures and writings on rocks or stone walls.

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