New Mars rover to land in intriguing giant crater

August 4, 2012
This undated image made available by NASA shows Mars' Gale Crater, looking south. The formation is 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a layered mountain rising about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor. (AP Photo/NASA)

The latest Mars destination is a giant crater near the equator with an odd feature: a mountain rising from the crater floor.

How did it get there?

Gale Crater was gouged by a more than 3 billion years ago. Over time, scientists believe sediments filled in the 96-mile (155-kilometer)-wide crater and winds sculpted the 3-mile (4.8-kilometer)-high mountain, called .

Mount Sharp's stack of can be read like pages in a storybook with older deposits at the base and more recent material the higher up you go, providing a record of Mars history through time.

Images from space reveal signs of water in the lower layers of the mountain, including mineral signatures of clays and sulfate salts, which form in the presence of water. Life as we know it needs more than just water. It also needs nutrients and energy.

During its two-year mission, the NASA rover Curiosity will trek to the lower flanks of the mountain in search of the carbon-based building blocks of life.

Explore further: NASA says Mars mountain will read like 'a great novel'

0 shares

Related Stories

3Q: The next Mars rover's destination

July 25, 2011

When the next-generation Mars rover, dubbed Curiosity, touches down on martian soil next summer, its cameras will likely capture a scene similar to what the first explorers of the Grand Canyon witnessed: towering layers of ...

Daybreak at Gale crater

August 25, 2011

This computer-generated images depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater, beginning to catch morning light.

The strange attraction of Gale crater

October 3, 2011

Curiosity is about to go to Mars. The car-sized rover, also known as the Mars Science Lab, is scheduled for launch in late November or early December 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center. After an eight-month voyage to Mars, ...

'Mount Sharp' on Mars links geology's past and future

March 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- One particular mountain on Mars, bigger than Colorado's grandest, has been beckoning would-be explorers since it was first sighted from orbit in the 1970s. Scientists have ideas about how it took shape in ...

Recommended for you

'Bathtub rings' suggest Titan's dynamic seas

July 28, 2015

Saturn's moon, Titan, is the only object in the Solar System other than Earth known to have liquid on its surface. While most of the lakes are found around the poles, the dry regions near the equator contain signs of evaporated ...

Born-again planetary nebula

July 28, 2015

Beneath the vivid hues of this eye-shaped cloud, named Abell 78, a tale of stellar life and death is unfolding. At the centre of the nebula, a dying star – not unlike our Sun – which shed its outer layers on its way to ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MarkmBha
1 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2012
Interesting, but more information please!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.