Story at a glance
- NASA released new images from Mars last week.
- The pictures are shot from Mount Sharp on the planet, and show rocky terrain alongside mountain ranges.
- The rover has been on Mars since 2012.
The red planet is less of a mystery to Earthly viewers thanks to new photographs released by NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, revealing a jagged, mountainous terrain.
The rover climbed over a Martian mountain dubbed Mount Sharp, which stands at 5 miles tall with a 96-mile-wide basin of the planet’s Gale Crater. The photos released last week and captured in early July.
The panorama above captures the view from this point. More pictures show a flat but rocky terrain, set against a backdrop of a large mountain range.
Researchers say that this location is situated with a region holding enriched clay minerals along with one full of sulfates. Clay rocks and deposits indicate the presence of water at some point in the past.
More sediment samples will help scientists uncover the history of the terrain.
“The rocks here will begin to tell us how this once-wet planet changed into the dry Mars of today, and how long habitable environments persisted even after that happened,” said Abigail Fraeman, Curiosity’s deputy project scientist, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
The agency’s Curiosity rover, which has been on Mars since 2012, uses a drill installed on its arm to make pontours, or holes drilled into rocks that collect geological samples.
While the rover has cleared the Gale Crater, it now heads up a path between the Rafael Navarro Mountain, named for a deceased mission scientist, and a peak taller than a four-story building. Within the next two years, Curiosity will revisit the Greenheugh Pediment sandstone slope.