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3 billion-year-old secrets: Curiosity Rover finds ridge water-debris

Gediz Vallis Ridge is a location that the rover’s science team has been looking for for a long time. The ridge is thought to be a relic of powerful ancient debris flows.

Powerful debris flows swept mud and rocks down the side of a massive mountain on Mars three billion years ago, during what is thought to have been one of the planet’s final wet periods. The debris eventually formed a fan, which was later worn by wind into a towering ridge, so preserving an intriguing record of the Red Planet’s aqueous past.

The Mission of Curiosity to Accomplish the Ridge

Now, after three attempts, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has finally reached the ridge, and it has taken a panoramic photo of the formation that spans the entire 360 degrees. Previous expeditions were unsuccessful because of the razor-sharp “gator-back” rocks and the treacherously steep slopes. On August 14, after completing one of the most challenging climbs the mission has ever encountered, the Curiosity rover reached at a location where it could explore the long-sought ridge with its robotic arm that was 7 feet (2 meters) in length.

“After three years, we finally found a spot where Mars allowed Curiosity to safely access the steep ridge,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California in the United States. “It’s a thrill to be able to reach out and touch rocks that were transported from places high up on Mount Sharp that we’ll never be able to visit with Curiosity,” said one of the scientists. “It’s a thrill to be able to touch rocks that were transported from places high up on Mount Sharp.”

Recent findings atop Mount Sharp.

Since 2014, the rover has been climbing the lower portion of Mount Sharp, which is around three miles and five kilometers tall, and along the route, it has found signs of old lakes and streams. The mountain is layered, and each layer represents a distinct time period in the

history of Mars. The ascent of Curiosity is providing scientists with new information on the evolution of the landscape over time. Gediz Vallis Ridge is one of the youngest geological time capsules that Curiosity will observe because it was one of the final features on the mountain to form.

Uncommon Understandings and Upcoming Challenges

The rover stayed at the ridge for a total of 11 days, during which time it was extremely busy taking photographs and analyzing the make-up of the dark rocks, which were clearly sourced from somewhere else on the mountain. These rocks, along with others lower on the ridgeline, some as huge as cars, were transported down from layers high on Mount Sharp by the debris flows that contributed to the formation of Gediz Vallis Ridge. These rocks offer a unique opportunity for Curiosity to investigate material originating higher up the mountain.

Due to the rover’s arrival at the ridge, scientists now have their first close-up views of the eroded remnants of a geological formation known as a debris flow fan. This geological phenomenon is created when debris flowing down a slope spreads out into the shape of a fan. Fans of debris flow are not uncommon on Mars or Earth, but the process by which they originate is still a mystery to scientists.

“I can’t imagine what it would have been like to witness these events,” said geologist William Dietrich, a mission team member at the University of California, Berkeley, who has helped lead Curiosity’s investigation of the ridge. “I can’t imagine what it would have been like to witness these events,” Dietrich added. “I can’t imagine what it would have been like to witness these events.” “Huge rocks were ripped out of the mountain high above, and they poured downhill, where they were fanned out into a fan below. The findings of this mission will encourage us to develop more plausible explanations for natural disasters like these not only on Mars but also on Earth, where they occur naturally.

On August 19, the Mastcam on the rover took 136 photographs of a scene at Gediz Vallis Ridge. These images, when assembled into a mosaic, provide a view that encompasses the entire surrounding area and can be viewed in any direction. The route that Curiosity traveled up the mountainside is seen in that image; it passed through “Marker Band Valley,” which is where evidence of an old lake was found.

Curiosity has already begun working on its next mission objective, which is to locate a route to the channel that is located above the ridge so that scientists may learn more about how and where water once flowed down Mount Sharp. This objective is being worked on as scientists are still analyzing the imagery and data from Gediz Vallis Ridge.

More Information Regarding the Purpose

JPL, which is controlled by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, was responsible for the construction of the Curiosity rover. JPL is leading the project on behalf of the Science Project Directorate in Washington, which is located at NASA.

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