March 18, 2013 1:05 pm
This is it, folks. This is what it’s all about. Since the Curiosity rover first set down on Mars in August, the one-ton mobile laboratory has been slowly inching its way towards Mount Sharp, a 3.4 mile high mountain nestled within a crater on the face of the red planet.
In this gorgeous mosaic NASA shows how the surface of Mount Sharp would look if the light on the dusty planet were the same as on Earth. In reality the Martian atmosphere makes the vistas appear a bit more drab, but editing the photo to look more Earthlike “helps scientists recognize rock materials based on their experience looking at rocks on Earth.”
The slow crawl toward Mount Sharp began months ago, and photos taken over time show the feature slowly inching into view.
Mount Sharp, also called Aeolis Mons, is a layered mound in the center of Mars’ Gale Crater, rising more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor, where Curiosity has been working since the rover’s landing in August 2012. Lower slopes of Mount Sharp are the major destination for the mission, though the rover will first spend many more weeks around a location called “Yellowknife Bay,” where it has found evidence of a past environment favorable for microbial life.
Mount Sharp, a peak rising in the midst of Gale Crater, was selected for the rover’s research because scientists thought they could find water and other signs that the region was once hospitable for life—dreams that have so far come true.
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