Mars Rover Views Spectacular Layered Rock Formations
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
September 9, 2016

The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new 
color images returned by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently 
exploring the "Murray Buttes" region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images 
arguably rival photos taken in U.S. National Parks.

Curiosity took the images with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Sept. 8. The 
rover team plans to assemble several large, color mosaics from the multitude 
of images taken at this location in the near future.

"Curiosity's science team has been just thrilled to go on this road trip 
through a bit of the American desert Southwest on Mars," said Curiosity 
Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 
Pasadena, California.

The Martian buttes and mesas rising above the surface are eroded remnants 
of ancient sandstone that originated when winds deposited sand after lower 
Mount Sharp had formed.

"Studying these buttes up close has given us a better understanding of 
ancient sand dunes that formed and were buried, chemically changed by 
groundwater, exhumed and eroded to form the landscape that we see today," 
Vasavada said.

The new images represent Curiosity's last stop in the Murray Buttes, where 
the rover has been driving for just over one month. As of this week, Curiosity 
has exited these buttes toward the south, driving up to the base of the 
final butte on its way out. In this location, the rover began its latest 
drilling campaign (on Sept. 9). After this drilling is completed, Curiosity 
will continue farther south and higher up Mount Sharp, leaving behind 
these spectacular formations.

Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in 2012. It reached the base of the 
mountain in 2014 after successfully finding evidence on the surrounding 
plains that ancient Martian lakes offered conditions that would have been 
favorable for microbes if Mars has ever hosted life. Rock layers forming 
the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes billions 
of years ago.

On Mount Sharp, Curiosity is investigating how and when the habitable 
ancient conditions known from the mission's earlier findings evolved into 
conditions drier and less favorable for life.

For more information about Curiosity, visit:

News Media Contact
Preston Dyches
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.



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