Thursday, June 13, 2019

Curiosity strikes clay in new samples, further proving Mars' watery past

 Ultimately this is all great news.  What it really means though is that we have wet rocks deep underground and thus what will turn out to be an ocean of water.

It would never have been possible to sustain a wet surface for the millions of years needed to produce clay and stratification without the crust been saturated just like Earth.

Thus going to Mars means quickly driving an incline tunnel deep into the bedrock to produce initial habitats and eventual access to water which then provides support for deep growing caves whose size can be much larger than we experience on Earth.  Such an construct with proper lighting could then provide an oxygen atmosphere withing the habitat system.

The take home is that Mars is definitely habitable.

Curiosity strikes clay in new samples, further proving Mars' watery past 

Michael Irving

May 30th, 2019 Curiosity took this selfie on May 12. The two drill holes in the clay-bearing region can be seen to its lower left(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA's Curiosity rover has begun investigating one of the most interesting regions so far on its seven-year journey. Scientists call the area the "clay-bearing unit," and sure enough, that name has turned out to be very apt. After drilling two new samples last month, the rover has finally confirmed high amounts of clay minerals, providing further proof that ancient Mars was once much wetter.

The presence of clay in the area was detected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) years before Curiosity ever touched down – in fact, it was one of the deciding factors in choosing a landing site. That's because clay usually forms in water, adding to the growing body of evidence that Mars was once covered in rivers, lakes and even oceans. And where there was water, there could have been life.

Beginning on April 6, Curiosity drilled two samples (nicknamed Aberlady and Kilmarie) from the suspected clay-rich region, and immediately got some feedback that it had hit pay-dirt. The drill reportedly sliced through the soft material far more easily than it ever has before, making it the mission's first sample to be obtained through only rotation of the drill bit.

And now, the rover has finished analyzing the two samples. While small amounts of clay have been detected in other places, these contained the highest amounts of clay minerals found on Mars so far. Also interesting is how different this dirt is from samples taken just a few kilometers away – the rover's mineralogy instrument found very little hematite, an iron oxide mineral that was previously turning up in large amounts. 

The science team says this latest finding backs up previous evidence that the area Curiosity has been exploring was home to an ancient lake. Since landing in 2012, the rover has found evidence of dried-up stream beds, organic molecules, water locked inside mineral compounds, and a layer-cake sediment structure.

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