Scientists working with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have been excited to explore a region called "the unit that carries clay" since before the launch of the spacecraft. Now, the rover has finally tested its first sample of this part of Mount Sharp. Curiosity drilled a piece of bedrock nicknamed "Aberlady" on Saturday, April 6 (the Martian day, or sun, of the mission, 2,370), and delivered the sample to its internal mineralogy laboratory on Wednesday, April 10 (Sun 2374).
The rover's drill chewed easily through the rock, unlike some of the tougher targets it faced near Vera Rubin Ridge. In fact, it was so soft that the drill did not need to use its percussion technique, which is useful for hooking samples of harder rock. This was the first sample of the mission obtained using only the rotation of the bit.
"Curiosity has been on the road for almost seven years," said Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "Finally, drilling into the clay unit is an important milestone on our journey to Mount Sharp."
Scientists are eager to badyze the sample for traces of clay minerals because they are usually formed in water. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) saw a strong clay "signal" here long before the Curiosity landed in 2012. Identifying the source of that signal could help the scientific team understand if a wetter Martian era gave shape to this layer of Mount Sharp, the 3 miles. -tall (5 kilometers high) Curiosity mountain has been climbing.
Curiosity has discovered clay minerals in clay stones throughout their journey. These mudstones were formed when the sediments of the rivers settled in ancient lakes almost 3,500 million years ago. As with water elsewhere on Mars, the lakes eventually dried up.
The mud lighthouse seen from space brought the mobile vehicle here, but the region clearly has other stories to tell. Now that Curiosity is searching in this area, scientists can look around as geological tourists, finding an old and new landscape. There are several types of bedrock and sand, including active sand ripples that have been modified in the last year. The pebbles are scattered everywhere, are they eroding from the local bedrock? Several striking landmarks, such as "Knockfarril Hill", stand out as well.
"Each layer of this mountain is a piece of puzzle," said curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada of JPL. "Each of them has clues from a different era in the history of Mars, and we are excited to see what this first show tells us about the ancient environment, especially about water."
The Aberlady sample will give the team a starting point to think about the unit with clay. They plan to drill several more times over the next year. That will help them understand what makes this region different from the ridge behind it and an area with a sulfate signal on the mountain.
Curiosity says goodbye to Vera Rubin Ridge of Mars
More information about Curiosity is at mars.nasa.gov/msl/
Curiosity tests the first sample in & # 39; unity with clay & # 39; (2019, April 12)
recovered on April 12, 2019
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