LOS ANGELES (Associated Press) — Scientists say NASA’s newest Mars rover has found signs that a stream once flowed across the surface near the site where it landed.
Curiosity touched down in a crater near the Martian equator last month. The red planet today is dusty and dry but scientists think it was once warmer and wetter.
Evidence of an ancient stream came from analyzing the size and shapes of pebbles and gravel near Gale Crater. Mission scientists said Thursday it appeared the water was fast-moving and deep.
Images from space have provided hints of a watery past at Curiosity’s landing site. The latest discovery on the ground confirms that.
Curiosity is headed toward a spot where three types of terrain meet. Its ultimate destination is a mountain rising from the center of the crater.
NASA Mars Science Laboratory — In this image from NASA’s Curiosity rover, a rock outcrop called Link pops out from a Martian surface that is elsewhere blanketed by reddish-brown dust. The fractured Link outcrop has blocks of exposed, clean surfaces. Rounded gravel fragments, or clasts, up to a couple inches (few centimeters) in size are in a matrix of white material. Many gravel-sized rocks have eroded out of the outcrop onto the surface, particularly in the left portion of the frame. The outcrop characteristics are consistent with a sedimentary conglomerate, or a rock that was formed by the deposition of water and is composed of many smaller rounded rocks cemented together. Water transport is the only process capable of producing the rounded shape of clasts of this size.
“A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment. … This is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment.” — Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger (Space.com)