NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached its next waypoint on its arduous trek towards the base of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater on Mars. According to a Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release, Curiosity traversed the final 98 feet of its journey to an area called “the Kimberley” on April 2. The Kimberley was selected in early 2013 as a destination for Curiosity to examine rocks that might have been deposited in conditions suitable for life.
Curiosity is situated atop a small rise, providing an excellent vantage point from which the rover can see in context the four different types of rock that intersect at the Kimberley. Ahead lie several weeks of observation, drilling for rock samples, and analysis in the rover’s onboard laboratory. Reaching the new waypoint means that Curiosity has traveled 3.8 miles since deploying on Mars in August 2012.
Curiosity will conduct a detailed examination of rocks exposed at the Kimberley. The rover spent the first half of 2013 studying a site known as Yellowknife Bay. Curiosity used its rock-sampling drill for the first time and discovered chemical clues in the rocks that indicate that Yellowknife Bay was once a lakebed environment favorable for microbial life.
Geological clues to past Martian habitability are not the only remarkable findings made by Curiosity. According to Chron.com, on April 7, NASA released a photo showing a strange beam of light emanating from the Martian surface. NASA has yet to issue an official statement on this puzzling discovery, but the image is available on the JPL’s Curiosity raw images website.