NASA’s Curiosity rover has found wave-rippled rocks – evidence of an early lake – in an area of the world expected to be drier, the US space agency said Wednesday.
“This is the best evidence of waves and water that we have seen throughout the entire mission,” said Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California.
The robotic rover, which continues to be exploring Mars since 2012, sent back incredible pictures of rippled patterns on the surface of rocks brought on by the waves of a shallow lake billions of years ago.
Previously, curiosity had found proof that lakes covered parts of Mars in the salty minerals left behind when they dried up.
But NASA scientists were surprised to discover such stark evidence of water in the Gale Crater, which the rover is now exploring.
“We climbed through many lake deposits during our mission, but haven’t seen wave ripples this clearly,” stated Vasavada.
“This is particularly astonishing as the area we are in probably formed at a time when Mars was becoming so much more dry,” he said.
Curiosity is going through the foothills of a three mile (five kilometer) taller mountain known as Mount Sharp.
The rover additionally spotted debris in a valley washed down on Mount Sharp by damp landslides, NASA said.
“This landslide wreckage is most likely the most recent evidence of water that we will ever see,” stated Vasavada. “It will permit us to study layers higher up on Mount Sharp which we can’t reach,” she said.
Mount Sharp offers a “Martian timeline” for researchers, with the earliest layers at the bottom as well as the youngest at the top, NASA said.
“This will enable us to examine how Mars developed out of a world which was much more earth-like in its past, with a warmer climate and plentiful water, to the freezing desert it’s today,” the report stated.
In February 2021, another Mars rover, Perseverance, arrived on the Red Planet to look for signs of former microbial life.
The rover is likely to collect thirty samples of soil and rock inside sealed tubes and send them to Earth for evaluation in the laboratory sometime in the 2030s.