The NASA rover Curiosity has successfully arrived at Gediz Vallis Ridge on Mars, a significant geological formation that provides information about the planet’s past water presence. It is believed that the ridge is the remains of ancient debris flows that occurred three billion years ago during one of Mars’ last wet periods.

The rover faced challenges during its journey, having to navigate through sharp rocks and steep slopes. After three attempts, Curiosity finally reached the ridge on August 14, capturing a 360-degree panoramic mosaic of the formation with its robotic arm.

Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada expressed excitement about the achievement, stating that it is thrilling to be able to touch rocks that were carried from the top of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile tall mountain that the rover has been ascending since 2014. Different layers of the mountain represent different eras of Martian history, and as Curiosity ascends, scientists gain more knowledge about the changing landscape over time.

Gediz Vallis Ridge is one of the latest features to form on Mount Sharp, making it one of the youngest geological time capsules for Curiosity to study. During its 11-day stay on the ridge, Curiosity took photos and studied the composition of the dark rocks that originated from other parts of the mountain, providing valuable information about material coming from the top of the mountain.

The rover’s arrival at the ridge also provided scientists with the first close views of the eroded remnants of a debris flow fan. These fans are common on both Mars and Earth, and studying them helps scientists understand how they form and the natural hazards they present.

As scientists continue to analyze data from Gediz Vallis Ridge, Curiosity is already preparing for its next challenge: finding a path up to the channel above the ridge to learn more about water flow on Mount Sharp.

– NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
– University of California, Berkeley