NASA’s Curiosity rover captured the 360-degree panorama, above, on June 18, 2019. The location, called “Teal Ridge,” is part of a larger region the rover has been exploring, which scientists call the “clay-bearing unit.”
The Curiosity rover landed on Mars seven years ago (August 6, 2012). Since then, it’s traveled a total of 13 miles (21 km) and ascended 1,207 feet (368 meters) to its current location. Scientists are looking for signs that Mars could have supported microbial life billions of years ago, when rivers and lakes could be found in Gale Crater.
Curiosity is now halfway through clay-bearing unit, which is on the side of Mount Sharp, inside Gale Crater. Rock samples that the rover has drilled here have revealed the highest amounts of clay minerals found during the mission.
Billions of years ago, says NASA, there were streams and lakes within the crater. Water changes the sediment that was deposited in the lakes, leaving behind lots of clay minerals in the region. Kristen Bennett of the U.S. Geological Survey is one of the co-leads for Curiosity’s clay-unit campaign. She said:
This area is one of the reasons we came to Gale Crater. We’ve been studying orbiter images ...