Scientists rejoice over the salty Martian minerals.
10+ years spent on Mars. Sand, sand, and cold, sharp rocks. On its journey to a victorious landing in the Gale Crater’s “sulfate-bearing unit,” NASA’s Curiosity rover has faced several challenges. This amazing location is rich in salty minerals and a gold mine for researchers looking into the origins of water on Mars.
In a statement released on Wednesday, NASA called the sulfate-bearing zone a “long-sought location” and “unique.” Since the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission of the international space agency had already surveyed the region before Curiosity landed in Gale Crater in 2012, scientists have been eagerly awaiting an up-close look.
Curiosity has spent little time learning about the area. According to NASA, “shortly after arrival, the rover uncovered a broad array of rock types and evidence of former water, among them popcorn-textured nodules and salty minerals including sodium chloride (common table salt), calcium sulphate (containing gypsum), and magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt is one kind).
In order to learn more about the chemistry and content of a fascinating rock called “Canaima,” the rover recently bore through it. As a mobile research lab, Curiosity is analysing the rock sample it collected using tools that are already on board.
Curiosity will search for evidence of any possible organic compounds among other things. Since Perseverance, Curiosity’s sibling rover, discovered some organic material in the Jezero Crater, the question of organic matter on Mars has gained much attention. Just remember that the presence of organic compounds does not imply the past presence of microbial life on Mars.
The origins of the salty minerals, which may have been left behind by streams and ponds that dried up billions of years ago, are a mystery that Curiosity is helping scientists solve. The Red Planet’s environment went from being more like Earth to the frozen desert it is now, NASA said. “Assuming the idea is accurate, these minerals give tantalising clues as to how — and why” this happened.
To get here, Curiosity had to travel across sand and boulders, which had taken quite a hammering on its wheels over time. Stunning vistas of the surrounding area have been the reward in addition to the intriguing science stuff. Gorgeous views of rounded Martian hills and sand dunes covered with rocks may be seen in a panorama taken on August 14.
Elena Amador-French, the coordinator of science operations for the Curiosity rover, mentioned feeling in awe of the scenery. “The sand ridges were breathtaking. Perfect small rover tracks are visible on them. The cliffs were stunning, and we were rather near to them “Amador-French spoke about the pass visible in the view.
Curiosity is just just beginning to learn the secrets of the sulfate-bearing region. The rover team is also kept busy figuring out how to navigate the sand and rocks while maintaining Curiosity’s functionality and safety. According to Amador-French, “Mars appears to throw more barriers at us as the research discoveries get more and more exciting.”