Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1441, August 25, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Navcam Left B image taken on Sol 1441, August 25, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

 

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now in Sol 1442 operations, continuing to capture impressive views of the Murray Buttes as the robot presses onward to investigate lower Mount Sharp.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1439, August 23, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1439, August 23, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This site was informally named nearly three years ago to honor Caltech planetary scientist Bruce Murray (1931-2013), a former director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

JPL manages the Curiosity mission for NASA.

This image was taken by the Curiosity Chemistry & Camera’s (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager on Sol 1441, August 25, 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

This image was taken by the Curiosity Chemistry & Camera’s (ChemCam) Remote Micro-Imager on Sol 1441, August 25, 2016.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL

 

 

The buttes and mesas are capped with rock that is relatively resistant to wind erosion. This helps preserve these monumental remnants of a layer that formerly more fully covered the underlying layer that the rover is now driving on.

Repeated post-drive looks at the health of wheels on Curiosity rover includes this Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), photo taken on August 18, 2016, Sol 1434. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Repeated post-drive looks at the health of wheels on Curiosity rover includes this Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), photo taken on August 18, 2016, Sol 1434.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Fossilized riverbeds

Meanwhile, new research from University College London (UCL) suggests there is an extensive system of fossilized riverbeds on an ancient region of the Martian surface. The discovery supports the view, according to a UCL press statement, that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about four billion years ago.

Perspective view of Aram Dorsum, an inverted channel on Mars and candidate landing site for the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover in 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS)

Perspective view of Aram Dorsum, an inverted channel on Mars and candidate landing site for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover in 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS)

 

Evidence of flowing water

The study has been published in the Geological Society of America’s Geology journal and funded by the Science & Technology Facilities Council and the UK Space Agency. The research work identified over 10,560 miles (17,000 kilometers) of former river channels on a northern plain called Arabia Terra, providing further evidence of water once flowing on Mars.

 

 

 

Preservation of biological material?

“We think the rivers were active 3.9–3.7 billion years ago, but gradually dried up before being rapidly buried and protected for billions of years, potentially preserving any ancient biological material that might have been present,” says lead author of the paper, Joel Davis (UCL Earth Sciences).

These ancient Martian flood plains would be “great places” to search for evidence of past life on the Red Planet, adds Matthew Balme, Senior Lecturer at The Open University and co-author of the study.

Balme points out that one area of the channels called Aram Dorsum is on the landing site list for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Rover mission in 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new Geology research paper is available here:

http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/early/2016/08/23/G38247.1.full.pdf+html

One Response to “Curiosity Mars Rover Presses Onward”

  • Kye Goodwin says:

    In the second image, a color mastcam of a slope and cliff on one of the Murray buttes, there is an area covered with darker sand and mostly clear of rocks, center left. This darker sand has been emplaced by the same dark streak forming process that we’ve seen in hundreds of places at Gale. Here its harder to see than at other locations where individual streaks and slides are separated. The bottom edge of the new sand forms a sharp boundary, slightly lobed, against the brighter dust covered slope. This is how these sand covered slopes get covered with sand IMO.

    Sure wish I could show people the 100 clearest and most impressive examples of this process chosen from the 1000 or so in the Gale archive.

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