Jun 15, 2019 | Updated: 11:54 AM EDT

Curiosity Mars Rover Seeks Answers in the Rocks of Pahrump Hills

Feb 28, 2015 09:39 PM EST

Mars Rover Curiosity Dig Feb. 24
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Finding some interesting chemistry in the rocks of Mars, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover decided to investigate on Telegraph Peak earlier this week, boring into the Martian surface in search of answers. Though the rock powder poses new questions to the chemical composition of the planet, the car-sized Curiosity rover is far from reaching its final destination.

NASA's main stake on Mars' surface, Curiosity is one of several rovers meandering across the Martian terrain. Touching down in August 2012, after a $2.5 billion investment into the Mars Science Laboratory mission, Curiosity's main mission is to seek out whether or not the red planet has ever been capable of supporting life. 

Marking the third sample collection since arriving at the base of Mount Sharp, known as Pahrump Hills, the drilling this week occurred on Tuesday, Feb. 24 after Curiosity's Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer detected abnormal chemistry in the nearby rocks. NASA officials say that when Curiosity alerted mission team members about the abnormalities, they had to look into the matter.

"When you graph the ratios of silica to magnesium and silica to aluminum, Telegraph Peak is toward the end of the range we've seen" lead researcher with the Curiosity mission, Doug Ming says. "It's what you would expect if there has been some acidic leeching."

"We want to see what minerals are present where we found this chemistry."

Curiosity will continue to analyze the material, while its team members back on Earth try to sort through the data, but one way or another, the rover's long stay at Pahrump Hills will shortly be coming to an end. NASA officials confirm that the next stop for Curiosity will be the rock deposits higher up in Mount Sharp's foothills. But before the rover's mission is over, eventually it will have to climb more than 3 miles into the Martian sky to reach the peak of the mountain.

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