Curiosity Rover Reaches the Clay Unit in Gale Crater, Sol 2073

Looking towards the Clay Unit

After 20.1 km and 2073 sols of driving and science operations we have reached the next milestone of the Mars Science Laboratory mission – the Clay Unit. The presence of clay was predicted from near infrared remote spectroscopy and was one of the key reasons for selection of Gale Crater as the landing site. The clay unit is likely to have been a trap for martian organics so we will be looking forward to drillholes and the subsequent gas chromatography and mass spectrometry results from SAM.

One of the key questions we have been addressing for the Gale Crater sediments is the nature of the crustal source materials that were eroded from the surrounding ancient highlands to form the sedimentary deposits. That gives us a window into the formation and evolution of the ancient igneous crust. In a paper recently published by one of our PhD students Candice Bedford (joint with the Open University) we demonstrate that prior to the effects of burial and alteration, the sedimentary material was a mixture of the expected basalt but also more differentiated, silica-rich crustal material. Gale Crater is revealing not just organics and clay but an unexpected history of the formation of the underlying Mars igneous crust.
Paper about source regions of Gale sediments

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jbridges

About jbridges

This blog is a record of my experiences and work during the Mars Science Laboratory mission, from the preparation, landing on August 5th 2012 Pacific Time, and onwards... I will also post updates about our other Mars work on meteorites, ExoMars and new missions. You can also follow the planetary science activities with @LeicsPlanets Professor John Bridges, Leicester Institute for Space and Earth Observation, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy (PS. Previous posts in this blog can be found at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/physics/research/src/res/planetary-science/mslblog)

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