NASA recently noted that Curiosity had arrived on some massive sand dunes -- what other bizarre things will it find on Mount Sharp?
NASA’s Mars Curiosity is making the long, difficult journey up the face of Mount Sharp situated deep in the Gale Crater on the Red Planet, and it has recently come across some huge sand dunes, as we recently reported. But just what does it hope to find higher up on Mount Sharp?
The dunes it came across are situated at the lower portion of the mountain. Some dunes rise as high as two stories, and they are very active, moving about three feet each year.
It’s an interesting sight on the way up Mount Sharp, Curiosity’s main focus. But why? What is so interesting about this mountain?
Mount Sharp is interesting for one primary reason: it’s like one big history book about Mars, and scientists want to open up and give it a good read through to understand how this planet evolved. Mount Sharp is built in layers of sediment stacked on top of each other, laid down over billions of years in the history of the Red Planet.
The rover has been wandering about exploring the Martian surface, but Mount Sharp has always been the focus, and it could tell us a lot about the history of Mars. That’s why scientists are excited to begin the ascent more than three years after Curiosity landed on the planet’s surface. The dunes are the first obstacle on the way up the mountain, and beyond them lie millions of years of history.
There’s also a sense of urgency to do it soon. Some small holes and tears are appearing in the aluminum skin around the rover’s wheels. It has caused the team to abandon some of its planned stops in order to focus on the main mission.
Now that Curiosity is on Mount Sharp, we could be in store for some huge discoveries about our neighbor.