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Photos: Visiting Death Valley With Mars Rover Curiosity Crew

Death Valley's Many Layers

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

Death Valley is famous among geologists because it offers the chance to study a variety of exposed and accessible ancient rock.

Cactus and Creosote

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

The mountains of Death Valley are dry and sparsely vegetated, supporting some grasses and the odd creosote bush and cactus.

A Mobile Dry Erase Board

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

Caltech's John Grotzinger, lead scientist for the Curiosity Mars rover mission, likes to get white cars for his geology field trips, so he can use the vehicles as mobile dry erase boards.

Coachwhip Snake in Death Valley

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

A coachwhip — a fast-moving, nonvenomous snake — cruised through the courtyard of our hotel in Shoshone, Calif., on April 30, 2012.

Old Bed Frame in Death Valley

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

A rusty old bed frame bakes in the Death Valley sun. Many prospectors came here in the early to mid-20th century to seek their fortunes in precious metals, but few struck it big.

Curiosity Rover Lead Scientist Talks Geology

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

John Grotzinger, lead scientist for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, talks about the geologist's craft on April 30, 2012, during a field trip to California's Death Valley.

Ancient Stromatolites in Death Valley

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

Fossilized billion-year-old stromatolites — structures created by sediment-trapping microbial mats — in California's Death Valley.

Old Talc Mine in Death Valley

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

An old talc mine in Death Valley. Nearby are great fossils of billion-year-old stromatolites, mound-like structures built by sediment-trapping microbial mats.

Death Valley Geology Lesson

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

Caltech's John Grotzinger, lead scientist for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, discusses Death Valley geology and points out our route up a slope on May 1, 2012.

Death Valley Mountain Vista

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

An ancient lake bed sits beyond a mountain range in Death Valley.

Clambering up a Death Valley Slope

Mike Wall/SPACE.com

A group of science reporters hikes up a Death Valley slope on May 1, 2012.

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Mike Wall
SPACE.COM SENIOR SPACE WRITER — Michael has been writing for Space.com since 2010. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.