NASA’s Curiosity rover has logged over a decade in Mars’ Gale Crater. It may be a veteran of the red planet, but Mars still has some surprises in store, like an ancient lake bed in an unexpected place.
The rover documented a landscape of stunning rocks that show distinctive signs of water from Mars’ deep past. “Billions of years ago, waves on the surface of a shallow lake stirred up sediment at the lake bottom, over time creating rippled textures left in rock,” NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.
Curiosity is working its way up the lower levels of the crater’s massive central mountain, Mount Sharp. One of the rover’s main goals is to find out if this area might have once been habitable for microbial life. Understanding the crater’s history of water is an important component of the mission.
“This is the best evidence of water and waves that we’ve seen in the entire mission,” said Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada. “We climbed through thousands of feet of lake deposits and never saw evidence like this — and now we found it in a place we expected to be dry.”