Five years ago the Curiosity Mars Rover landed on the surface of the red planet. Curiosity’s mission is to determine Mars’ habitability by examining the planet’s climate and geology. It was set to explore the 96 mile-wide Gale Crater and study its structure, chemical composition, how it came to be, and how its history impacted its habitability.
So far, Curiosity has traveled 10.89 miles (17.53 kilometers) and it’s still on the go. The rover has drilled 15 times taking rock samples which are then examined. Many instruments inside Curiosity analyzed each sample finding out the minerals within.
During a drill at John Klein rock, Curiosity’s Sample Analisis at Mars (SAM) instrument analyzed a sample which showed the presence of water, carbon dioxide, oxygen, sulfur dioxide (the oxidized form) and hydrogen sulfide (the reduced form) upon heating it to 1535 degrees Fahrenheit and analyzing the gases the sample released.
Other analysis performed my Curiosity’s instruments like the Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) and the Quadruple Mass Spectrometer (QMS) lead to results indicating that suitable aqueous conditions may have been possible in the distant past, making the John Klein area a potentially habitable environment in the past.
Along its way, the Curiosity Rover has taken hundreds of impressive pictures of Mars’ landscape.
Water In Mars’ Past
A couple of the pictures have also shown traces of rocks shaped or formed by water in the past.
These many findings have led scientists to determine Gale Crater’s history.
Although these findings explain a lot about the area, there’s still a world to explore. Curiosity is still traveling through the crater’s rocks and sand dunes. As of September 13, 2017, Curiosity next step stated by climbing toward the top of the Vera Rubin Ridge. This destination had been set even before the rover landed on 2012. The rock formations especially of sedimentary rocks, make it a promising exploration site. The ascension route has been mapped, never the less, the steep cliffs are always a concern to Curiosity’s team of scientists.
The climb will take Curiosity 213 feet (65 meters) or 20 stories up and on a road trip of more than a third of a mile (570 meters). The rover’s climb will allow scientist to study the sedimentary layers up close. Along the way, Curiosity will pause at pre-chosen places where Curiosity’s team can perform more extensive studies and will adjust if necessary.
Resources for Educators:
- Interactive videos about Curiosity Rover
- Curiosity Image Galery
- Learn all about the Curiosity Rover