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,
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,"
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
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
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