All About Space
Curiosity starts road trip up Martian mountain
NASA’s Curiosity rover is embarking on a road trip on Mars. The nearly eight-yearold mission will be guided through a traverse roughly 1.6-kilometres (one-mile) long that will see it climb farther up a mountain to learn more about the planet’s history – and whether it could have been habitable for microbial life in its ancient past.
Curiosity is on its way to an area on the 5.5-kilometre (3.4-mile) high Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) nicknamed the ‘sulphate-bearing unit’. Sulphates are usually formed around water as it evaporates, and these leftovers could provide more information about how the surface of
Mars changed roughly 3 billion years ago when the planet lost most of its atmosphere and running water was no longer possible on the surface.
If all goes to plan Curiosity will reach the sulphate unit later this year, during our Northern Hemisphere’s autumn. Like any road trip, however, the rover drivers may stop their machine along the way if they spot something interesting.