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Business News/ Science / News/  Mars exploration: NASA's Curiosity searches for new clues about ancient water

Mars exploration: NASA's Curiosity searches for new clues about ancient water

A recent study by an international team has suggested that Mars might have retained more water for a longer period than previously thought

Curiosity’s Route to Gediz Vallis Channel (Photo: Nasa)Premium
Curiosity’s Route to Gediz Vallis Channel (Photo: Nasa)

The presence of water on Mars—Earth’s neighbour —is not an alien concept. Astronomers over decades have talked about the presence of water on the Red Planet without evidence. However, a recent study by an international team has suggested that the fourth planet of the solar system from the Sun might have retained more water for a longer period than previously thought. 

As the Curiosity rover of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has begun exploring a new region of Mars i.e Gediz Vallis channel—appears to have been carved by an ancient river—it could reveal more about when liquid water disappeared once and for all from the Red Planet’s surface.

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The rover team is focusing on the Gediz Vallis channel and searching on for evidence that would confirm how the channel was carved into the underlying bedrock. The formation’s sides are steep enough that the team doesn’t think the channel was made by wind. 

The rover’s journey through this region aims to find out the process of the Gediz Vallis channel formation—whether the debris flows (rapid, wet landslides) or a river carrying rocks and sediment could have formed the bedrock. Scientists are also eager to find out whether the debris was transported by water or dry avalanches.

Since 2014, Curiosity has been ascending the foothills of Mount Sharp above the floor of Gale Crater to explore the evaluation of the Mars climate change. The study of layers in the lower part of Mount Sharp formed over millions of years may provide scientists a clue as to how the presence of both water and the chemical ingredients required for life changed over time. These layers present a chronological record of Mars’ environmental changes, crucial for understanding its potential for past life.

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“If the channel or the debris pile were formed by liquid water, that’s really interesting. It would mean that fairly late in the story of Mount Sharp – after a long dry period – water came back, and in a big way," said Curiosity’s project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Last year, Curiosity made a challenging ascent to study the ridge, which drapes across the slopes of Mount Sharp and seems to grow out of the end of the channel, suggesting both are part of one geologic system.

This Curiosity exploration contributes to a growing body of evidence suggesting Mars experienced water in phases, with periods of aridity interspersed with significant watery intervals. Discoveries like mud cracks, remnants of shallow lakes, and evidence of the complexity of Mars's hydrological past, Massive debris flows underscore the complexity of Mars’ hydrological past. 



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Published: 01 Apr 2024, 11:17 PM IST
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