Upgraded Curiosity suggests water was repeatedly present on Mars – NASA

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is seen at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called 'Buckskin' on lower Mount Sharp in this low-angle self-portrait taken August 5, 2015 and released August 19, 2015. © NASA
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has examined mineral veins in the Red Planet’s so-called “Garden City,” thanks to a new observation tool. Chemical analysis of the site may indicate water made repeated appearance on Mars, scientists say.

The Curiosity team deployed a tool called laser-firing Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) to analyze bright and dark mineral veins, first discovered in March, at Garden City. It allows reading different veins by means of laser targeting while comparing them with mineral alteration seen at other places on the planet’s surface.

“At Garden City, because there’s such good preservation and we get the cross-cutting, we’re able to start pulling out some chemical signatures that we saw at different places into distinct fluids,” Curiosity scientist Diana Blaney, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Discovery News. “And by looking at the cross-cutting relationships and the difference in chemistries, I think we have really strong evidence that they’re distinct fluid events.”

“We don’t know how far apart in time these different events occurred, or what was driving them,” she said. “Veins have a good potential — because it’s a fluid and there is crystallization — to include things as inclusions, but the organic preservation has a lot of factors.”

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The scientific team also suggests chemical analysis conducted by Curiosity might be a proper tool in finding evidences of habitat on Mars’ surface.

“The chemistry at Garden City would have been very enigmatic if we didn’t have this recalibration,” Blaney said.

She presented the findings from ChemCam’s Garden City investigations at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Science on Sunday.

As researchers analyzed Curiosity’s observations of the veins, the ChemCam team was completing the most extensive upgrade to its data-analysis toolkit since Curiosity reached Mars in August 2012. The number of Earth-rock geochemical samples almost tripled by 350 with a test version of ChemCam. This allowed scientists to improve the data interpretation, making it more sensitive to a wider range of Martian rocks.

The rover is currently exploring younger, higher regions of the mountain.

READ MORE: Ancient Mars hosted long-lived lakes & rivers, NASA’s Curiosity Rover team says

The Garden City site is just uphill from an outcrop called “Pahrump Hills,” which Curiosity investigated for about six months after reaching the base of multi-layered Mount Sharp in September 2014. The mission is to examine ancient environments that offered favorable conditions for habitat life, if Mars has ever hosted any for more than 3 billion years.