NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Arrives at Next Science Destination (Photos)

Curiosity's View From Arrival Point at 'The Kimberley' Waypoint
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this view of various rock types at waypoint called "the Kimberley" shortly after arriving at the location on April 2, 2014. The site offers a diversity of rock types exposed close together in a decipherable geological relationship to each other. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has reached its next study area and is now scoping out rocks that it will take an up-close look at over the next few weeks.

The Curiosity rover snapped new photos of Mars after driving 98 feet (30 meters) on Wednesday (April 2) and topping a small hill that affords a good view of the surrounding area, which NASA scientists have dubbed "the Kimberley," officials said.

"This is the spot on the map we've been headed for, on a little rise that gives us a great view for context imaging of the outcrops at the Kimberley," Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, the science team lead for Curiosity's work at the site, said in a statement.

This view from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover was taken the day before the rover's final approach drive to "the Kimberley" waypoint, selected months ago as the location for the mission's next major investigations. It combines several frames taken by the Navigation Camera on April 1, 2014. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Four different types of rock intersect at the Kimberley, providing Curiosity with a wealth of material to study. The rover is expected to do a great deal of work at the site, conducting its most extensive analyses since leaving a spot called "Yellowknife Bay" last year, NASA officials said.

Curiosity found evidence of an ancient stream-and-lake system at Yellowknife Bay, suggesting that the area could have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

This map shows the route driven by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover from the "Bradbury Landing" location where it landed in August 2012 (the start of the line in upper right) to a major waypoint called "the Kimberley." (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

The activities at the Kimberley represent a pause in Curiosity's long drive to the towering Mount Sharp, which has been the rover's main science destination since before its November 2011 launch. Mount Sharp's foothills record a history of Mars' changing environmental conditions over time, and mission officials want Curiosity to read that history like a book as it climbs up through the mountain's lower reaches.

The Curiosity rover has now driven a total of 3.8 miles (6.1 kilometers) since touching down inside the Red Planet's huge Gale Crater in August 2012.

The rover has a ways to go yet before reaching Mount Sharp, however. The trek from Yellowknife Bay to the mountain's foothills will cover more than 5 miles (8 km); Curiosity should get there around the middle of this year, mission officials have said.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. 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.