Mars is a warm and wet planet that was billions of years ago was likely capable of supporting life. Because of something, the planet lost its atmosphere and turn into the harsh, frozen desert it is today. The Curiosity rover, in 2012, landed on Mars has been finding out different aspects of Gale Crater on Mars to the transition of the planet.
The research done from the data captured by one of the rover’s instruments suggests that the planet transitioned back and forth between wetter and drier times before losing its surface water entirely around three billion years ago. Since 2014, located at the center of Gale Crater, Curiosity has been steadily climbing the 3-mile-high Mount Sharp.
On the rover’s mast sits an instrument called a ChemCam with a high-resolution camera and a laser that vaporizes rocks and helps the rover analyze their chemical composition. The device has an infrared-colored laser that can heat rock pieces to 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Plasma is then created by vaporizing the rock. Scientists can look inside the chemicals and minerals comprising the rock and get information about the planet’s geologic history.
The camera on ChemCam captured observations of Mount Sharp’s terrain. Mount Sharp is an essential feature on Mars because it is one of the best ways to record the history of its sediment, water, and climate. According to ChemCam team scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, “A primary goal of the Curiosity mission was to study the transition between the habitable environment of the past, to the dry and cold climate that Mars has now. These rock layers recorded that change in great detail.”
As per Curiosity, the layers of Mount Sharp the layers have changed dramatically. The base is made of clay deposited by the lake that once filled the crater. Above the base are layers of sandstone, and above the layer of sandstone, more deposits from the flood plain are there. As per the observations made by Curiosity, the changes between wet and dry eras were large-scale events that kept on altering till the planet became arid.