Gale Crater is one of the lowest places on Mars.
SEARCHING FOR WATER
“It’s like a little bowl, capturing any water that may have been present there,” said project scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology. ““Water flows downhill, and if you don’t know anything else in advance, that’s where you want to go to find evidence of water.”
Curiosity is after more than water, however. To support Earth-like life, an environment needs water, an energy source, like the sun or chemical energy, and carbon.
The goal of the mission, designed to last two years, is to assess whether Gale Crater had all the ingredients at the right time and in the right places for microbial life to arise and be preserved.
The basin sports a 3-mile (5-km) high mound of what appears to be layers of sediment, which at one time might have completely filled the crater.
“One of the main reasons why we’re going to Mars is to figure out whether life ever started there,” said NASA’s lead Mars scientist Michael Meyer.
“If in the second place in our solar system that we think life has a possibility and actually did start there, my conclusion would be that life is easy, it’s a natural process and the universe is just littered with places that have life,” Meyer said.