Martian World Through Curiosity Tinted Glasses-Part 2

My destination loomed ahead of me.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. NASA-Landing Site Panorama. 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2017.

Ten kilometres away, Mt. Sharp perches at the centre of Gale Crater, full of answers to the questions I seek. I begin my long trek towards its base, all the while searching for rocks of interest. Every once in a while, I pick them up from the surface and heat them inside me to sniff out the hidden gases.  This way, I can get a first-hand analysis of how these rocks came to be. Sometimes, when the rocks seem exciting enough, I drill into them to explore their elements in depth.

And some other times, when laziness dominates my purpose, I just bullet holes into rocks with the laser on my forehead. That way, I can simply analyse the escaping gases and view their crystalline structure, all from a distance.

NASA/JPL-Caltech. 2011. Web. 11 Oct. 2017.

As I continue my journey, it slowly becomes evident from the dry stream bed and brines that liquid water once flowed here. I don’t know the why’s and how’s yet, but one thing is for sure: life existed once upon a time on Mars.

Three months of trudging along at five centimeters per second on my aluminum wheels placed me a few miles away from a sand dune near the base of Mt. Sharp. Then the changes began to occur.

Floating boulders and rocks on sand are replaced by rocks that seem to be cemented into the ground. I bet when water was receding from Mars, the wind came into play and hardened them. Their sharp teeth eyed me dangerously, waiting to pounce on my wheels.

While the others of my kind on the other end of Mars can easily push their obstacles apart or break them to pieces, these rocks seem determined to break me to pieces. My seven layered aluminum tires reveal punctures dangerous enough to dislodge some of my wheels. Spooked, I move backward, allowing my rear wheels to take the beatings for a while.

While the cameras swamped all over my body click away busily, I scan the area to decide the best route to proceed. I don’t want to damage myself more than I already have.

A sand dune not far off is a welcoming sight to my worn tires. Just as I am about to begin to climb it, a thought hits me. What if sharp rocks lay in wait underneath it? To check, I first put my left toe in, then my right. Seems safe enough. I manage to emerge out on the other side of the dune unscathed. Well, ignoring the scathing already showered upon me.

I reach Pahrump hills, the gateway to Mt. Sharp.

Four weeks later, I look down at the small hole I had made in Mars. I had been drilling ever since I got here and hoping the effort paid off, I pick up a scoop of the sand to analyze it. To my surprise, the sand is so soft, almost clayish! And moreover, what is haematite doing here? The only place that I know of it is 54 million kilometers away, Earth.

NASA/JPL-Caltech. 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2017.

Back there, Earth’s crust used to ooze out hot water and the mineral precipitated out of it to collect itself at the bottoms. Then what was it doing here, a million miles away from home? Well, the only logical explanation would be if Mars had hot springs of its own.

But then, what happened here? How can life on a planet just disappear?

Mulling on it, I make my way to the Vera Rubin Ridge at the base of Mt. Sharp.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of years of flowing water had left its mark on the ridge. This, I decide, will be my next climb and start the slow trek towards the top.

Hours later, when the sun slowly dips behind the horizon, casting a comforting blue glow, I go on and on, zapping some rocks and drilling some other, gathering evidence left behind by life to piece together its story.

NASA/JPL-Caltech. 2012. Web. 11 Oct. 2017.

2 Comment(s)

  1. Daniel Lee
    October 14, 2017

    Great read and fun. Children with a keen interest in Science will most certainly enjoy your approach.

    1. FuelYourCuriosity
      October 15, 2017

      Thank you! That was the idea. To remove the jargon so that the beauty of science stands out.

Write a comment