The NASA Curiosity rover has successfully reached the crest of Gediz Vallis, a formation that contains valuable information about one of the last wet periods on the Red Planet. This long-awaited destination is believed to be a remnant of ancient powerful debris flows that occurred three billion years ago. During these flows, mud and rocks were swept down a mountain, creating a fan-shaped crest.
After three previous attempts, Curiosity managed to overcome the challenging terrain and reach the crest on its fourth try. The rover captured a 360-degree panoramic view of the formation using its Mastcam. This milestone allows scientists to study the crest up close and analyze its composition using Curiosity’s robotic arm.
Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain, has been the rover’s target since 2014. As Curiosity climbs the mountain, it discovers evidence of ancient lakes and rivers, providing valuable insights into Mars’ past. Gediz Vallis crest is one of the youngest geological features of Mount Sharp, making it a unique time capsule for scientists to examine.
During its 11-day stay at the crest, Curiosity diligently collected data and took photographs of the dark rocks that originated from the upper layers of the mountain. These rocks offer a rare opportunity to study material from the upper regions of Mount Sharp that Curiosity cannot physically reach.
In addition to studying the crest itself, Curiosity’s arrival provided scientists with the first close-up views of an eroded debris flow fan. These features, present on both Mars and Earth, are still not fully understood, and researchers hope to gain more insight into their formation through this study.
Curiosity’s successful arrival at Gediz Vallis crest marks a significant achievement for the mission. Scientists are eagerly analyzing the collected data and images to uncover more secrets about Mars’ wet past and how the planet has changed over time.
– JPL-Caltech/MSSS/UC Berkeley
– NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS
– University of California, Berkeley