Curiosity rover arrives at Gediz Vallis channel to explore history of Mars water

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has arrived at the Gediz Vallis channel, an area that resembles a winding, dry riverbed, to explore the history of water on the Red Planet.

After arriving at the Gediz Vallis channel, the Curiosity rover captured the following view of the channel using one of its black-and-white navigation cameras on February 3, 2024. 

A view of the Gediz Vallis channel from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover
A view of the Gediz Vallis channel from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Curiosity rover will explore this area for several months, as the rover team is eager to know whether the channel was carved by debris flows (rapid, wet landslides) or an ancient river carrying rocks and sediment. 

Planet Mars had a thick atmosphere a few billion years ago, and the temperature of the planet was just right to hold liquid water on its surface.

Over time, this thick atmosphere has evaporated, and currently, the average temperature of Mars is -85°F (-65°C), which is too cold to hold liquid water on its surface.

NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on the Gale crater of Mars on August 6, 2012, and since 2014, the rover has traveled 3 miles (5 kilometers) to explore the Gediz Vallis channel, which is located at the foothills of Mount Sharp.

Curiosity rover's path to reach the Gediz Vallis channel from Gale Crater
Curiosity rover’s path to reach the Gediz Vallis channel from Gale Crater. The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this picture. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Berkeley)

The rover team doesn’t think that the flow of wind made this Gediz Vallis channel, as the sides of the channel are steep enough. 

So if an ancient Martian river created this channel or carried these boulders and debris on the channel, then it could reveal more information about exactly when liquid water disappeared from the Red Planet’s surface.

Related article: NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captures ancient river beds on Mars 

Currently, NASA’s two rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance, are operating on Mars. Curiosity is exploring the Gale crater, while Perseverance is exploring the Jezero crater.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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