Have you ever wanted to know what it's like to walk (or fly over) the mountains on Mars? A new animated video published by NASA shows what it's like to explore Mount Sharp, a Martian mountain that the Curiosity rover has been climbing since 2014.
The video highlights several regions on the mountain that Curiosity scientists are studying, including what the scientific team calls the "clay unit," where Curiosity has just begun to badyze rock samples.
The aerial route also shows the path proposed by the itinerant science laboratory in the coming years. Some of the target sites that NASA plans to study include the rocky cliffs of the "sulfate-bearing unit", where the sulfate minerals may indicate that the area was drying out or becoming more acidic in antiquity, and Gediz Vallis, where a river may have opened a path through the sulfate unit, NASA said in a statement.
Each region represents a different period in the history of Mount Sharp, which rises about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the base of Gale Crater. Curiosity scientists want to visit these places to learn more about the history of water in the mountains, which slowly dried up as the weather changed.
The proposed route for NASA's Curiosity rover, which is climbing Mount Sharp on Mars, and the regions that scientists working with the rover wish to explore in the coming years. (Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / ESA / Univ. Of Arizona / JHUAPL / MSSS / USGS Astrogeology Science Center)
Understanding how these changes occurred at Mount Sharp can provide new insights into why water, one of the most important resources for life, disappeared from Mars billions of years ago.
NASA plans to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024 as a step toward human exploration of Mars.
In 2020, NASA will also launch a Mars vehicle based on the vehicle configuration of the Marte Science Laboratory. Its goal is to look for signs of past life, reserve a returnable hideout with the most convincing soil and rock core samples, and demonstrate the technology needed for future human and robotic exploration of Mars.
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