Mars rover Curiosity reaches key destination; ‘new science ahead!’

Posted at 8:06 AM, Sep 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-12 08:06:19-04

(CNN) — After roving across more than five miles of the Red Planet’s sometimes rough terrain, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has reached its primary destination: the base of a Martian mountain in the middle of a vast, deep crater.

Curiosity’s Twitter feed blared news of this triumphant arrival with the post, “I’m all about that base. Reached the base layer of Mt Sharp. New science ahead!” in a riff on Meghan Trainor’s ear worm.

Scientists chose Mount Sharp as the rover’s destination long before the roving lab launched from Cape Canaveral in November 2011 and touched down in August 2012.

The mountain’s layers are essentially records of the different chapters in the environmental evolution of Mars.

Living up to its name, Curiosity explored the crater floor as it made its way to the base of Mount Sharp.

It’s already solved its primary mission objective, which is to determine whether the Martian environment could have been habitable to microorganisms. That answer is yes.

NASA says Curiosity found evidence on Gale Crater’s floor that a lake bed existed billions of years ago that offered fresh water, key ingredients for life and a source of energy for microbes.

Like all great journeys, the trip to this mountain was not without unexpected twists and turns.

Earlier this year, Curiosity’s team members had to change the rover’s route because sharp rocks were poking holes into four of the rover’s six wheels.

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