According to a new study, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has tested its first sample from a region called “the clay-bearing unit” on Mars.
Researchers have been working with Curiosity to explore the reign on Mount Sharp since before the spacecraft launched.
The sample is a piece of bedrock nicknamed “Aberlady”. It has been to Curiosity’s internal mineralogy lab.
The research was led by Curiosity Project Manager Jim Erickson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
During the sample drilling, the rover’s drill could chew easily through the rock. This was the mission’s first sample obtained using the only rotation of the drill bit.
The team suggests that the sample drilling at the clay-bearing unit is a major milestone in their exploration of Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-tall mountain Curiosity has been climbing.
According to the researchers, clay minerals usually form in water and the sample may help them if a wetter Martian era shaped this layer of Mount Sharp.
Curiosity has discovered several clay minerals. These minerals formed as river sediment settled within ancient lakes nearly 3.5 billion years ago.
The team is exploring several kinds of bedrock and sand in the clay-bearing unit. They suggest that each layer of Mount Sharp may hold clues to a different era in Martian history.
They are trying to find out what this first sample could tell them about the ancient environment, especially about water.
The team plans to drill several more times during the next year and get more information about this region.
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