Curiosity will be coming 'round the Martian mountain when it comes — and a colorful new animation highlights where exactly the mission is headed.
Since 2012, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have been exploring Mars with the car-size rover called Curiosity. A sixth grader named this robot during a contest run by the space agency 10 years ago. And, oh, the places Curiosity will go!
The rover has been climbing Mount Sharp, which rises about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the base of Gale Crater, since 2014. Curiosity is currently analyzing rock samples in a place called the ''clay-bearing unit'' and might someday reach rocky cliffs with sulfate minerals, according to a May 15 statement by the space agency.
NASA officials say each region represents a different period in the mountain's history, and the ''sulfate-bearing unit,'' for example, might reveal if the area once had liquid water that dried up billions of years ago.
Curiosity isn't just studying the ground below. Two months ago, the rover's Mast Camera captured each of Mars' tiny moons crossing the face of the sun. The instrument is fitted with a solar filter that lets it look directly at the star.
- Water on Mars May Have Been Triggered by Meteorite Impacts
- Geometry Helps Solve the Mystery of Mars' Water
- Mars May Have Lots of Water Deep Underground
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Doris is a science journalist and Space.com contributor. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Communications at Fordham University in New York City. Her first work was published in collaboration with London Mining Network, where her love of science writing was born. Her passion for astronomy started as a kid when she helped her sister build a model solar system in the Bronx. She got her first shot at astronomy writing as a Space.com editorial intern and continues to write about all things cosmic for the website. Doris has also written about microscopic plant life for Scientific American’s website and about whale calls for their print magazine. She has also written about ancient humans for Inverse, with stories ranging from how to recreate Pompeii’s cuisine to how to map the Polynesian expansion through genomics. She currently shares her home with two rabbits. Follow her on twitter at @salazar_elin.