On Monday (Sept. 18), NASA confirmed that after three failed attempts, its Curiosity Mars rover managed to reach a dangerous target on the Red Planet: The Geddy’s Wallis Ridge.
Why does this build deserve so much fuss? curiosity? Well, scientists believe that three billion years ago, when tuesday It was much wetter than the dry land it is now, with powerful debris flows cramming mud and rock into the side of a mountain known as Mount Sharp. According to NASAThis debris „spread in a fan, which was then eroded by the wind into a high ridge.”
Practically, that backstory is what keeps this ridge evidence Mars’ Blue Past — and excitingly, information about the planet’s ancient, dangerous landslides.
„I can’t imagine what it would have been like to see these events,” said geologist William Dietrich, a member of the mission team at the University of California, Berkeley, in a statement. „Large boulders were removed from the mountain above. , rushed downward, and spread in a fan below. The results of this campaign will push us to better explain such phenomena, not only on Mars, but also on Earth, where natural hazards are present.”
The target was reached on August 14 or the 3,923rd Tuesday (Sol). After settling in, it was Curiosity Mastcam It took 136 individual images of the site that were stitched together to create a 360-degree panorama, then color-enhanced for visual purposes.
Related: How NASA’s Curiosity Rover Made Its Steep Mars Pass (VIDEO)
An inviting string of red tape
To get to Geddis Wallis Ridge, Curiosity had to overcome a few obstacles.
First, the rover encountered some problems accessing this long-awaited region of the Red Planet in 2021. Greenhugh PedimentScientists claim that it is the most difficult rock formation to climb.
Then, last year, Curiosity ran into some knife-edged „gator-bags.” Rocks The ridge stumbled upon another possible route. The name „gator-back” comes from the fact that these rocks resemble the scales on a crocodile’s back. They are believed to be made of sandstone – which also turned out to be the hardest type of rock that Curiosity encountered on Mars.
Earlier this year, Curiosity suffered another setback on its way to Gediz Vallis after checking the marker band valley. Leaving the marker band, NASA Said at the time was comparable to participating in a „slip-and-slide” on Mars. The whole ordeal left curiosity in a subtle form.
The Curiosity team called GV Ridge „the 'Bermuda Triangle’ of Mount Sharp.” Task optimization Since the beginning of this year. „We’re now a few meters away and getting contact science on some ridge material, and the prospect is growing,” the update added.
But now, Curiosity has satisfied our curiosity.
„After three years, we have discovered a place on Mars that allowed Curiosity to safely approach steep ridges,” Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. „It was a thrill for us to peer and touch the rocks carried from the heights of Mount Sharp, which we would never have been able to see with interest.”
On the latter point, Curiosity never intended to climb towards the summit of Mount Sharp.
The rover has been exploring the 3-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) mountain since 2014, stumbling upon ancient streams and evidence of existence along the way, NASA explained, but the Geddis Wallis Ridge is a new area to investigate — and, in fact, the youngest section of the region.
What did we find?
According to NASA, Curiosity spent 11 days on the ridge after arriving in mid-August. This time, it photographed dark rocks „clearly visible elsewhere on the mountain,” as well as others „as big as a few cars” on the ridgeline. It is expected that these fragments may have come from the higher elevations of Mount Sharp.
In total, Curiosity’s Mastcam captured 136 images of the Gediz Vallis Ridge, which were stitched together in a mosaic to create a 360-degree view.
Also, the team says, the rover gave scientists the first close-up views of a geological phenomenon known as a „debris flow fan,” which refers to a phenomenon in which debris flowing down a slope spreads out in a fan shape.
Curiosity has been passing its planetary subject since 2012 as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. So far, its travels have taken it to incredible places Gale Crater – a huge impact with a layered mountain at its center – and (most adorable) this rock It looks like an open book.
With Gediz Vallis finally under its belt, Curiosity will find a path up the ridge to learn about Mount Sharp’s hydrological history.
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