On August 6, 2012, Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory rover) landed in "Yellowknife" Quad 51 of Aeolis Palus, next to the mountain. NASA named the landing site Bradbury Landing on August 22, 2012. Aeolis Mons is a primary goal for scientific study. On June 5, 2013, NASA announced that Curiosity would begin an 8 km (5.0 mi) journey from the Glenelg area to the base of Aeolis Mons. On November 13, 2013, NASA announced that an entryway the rover would traverse on its way to Aeolis Mons was to be named "Murray Buttes", in honor of planetary scientistBruce C. Murray (1931–2013). The trip was expected to take about a year and would include stops along the way to study the local terrain.
On September 11, 2014, NASA announced that Curiosity had reached Aeolis Mons, the rover mission's long-term prime destination.
As of September 21, 2021, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 3244 sols (3333 days) since landing on August 6, 2012. (See Current status.)
The mountain appears to be an enormous mound of eroded sedimentary layers sitting on the central peak of Gale. It rises 5.5 km (18,000 ft) above the northern crater floor and 4.5 km (15,000 ft) above the southern crater floor, higher than the southern crater rim. The sediments may have been laid down over an interval of 2 billion years, and may have once completely filled the crater. Some of the lower sediment layers may have originally been deposited on a lake bed, while observations of possibly cross-bedded strata in the upper mound suggest aeolian processes. However, this issue is debated, and the origin of the lower layers remains unclear. If katabatic wind deposition played the predominant role in the emplacement of the sediments, as suggested by reported 3 degree radial slopes of the mound's layers, erosion would have come into play largely to place an upper limit on the mound's growth.
On December 8, 2014, a panel of NASA scientists discussed (archive 62:03) the latest observations of Curiosity about how water may have helped shape the landscape of Mars, including Aeolis Mons, and had a climate long ago that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many Martian locations.
On October 8, 2015, NASA confirmed that lakes and streams existed in Gale crater 3.3 - 3.8 billion years ago delivering sediments to build up the lower layers of Mount Sharp.
On February 1, 2019, NASA scientists reported that Curiosity had determined, for the first time, the density of Mount Sharp in Gale crater, thereby establishing a clearer understanding of how the mountain was formed.
In comparison, Mount Everest rises to 8.8 km (29,000 ft) altitude above sea level (asl), but is only 4.6 km (15,000 ft) (base-to-peak) (btp). Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro is about 5.9 km (19,000 ft) altitude above sea level to the Uhuru peak; also 4.6 km base-to-peak. America's Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, has a base-to-peak of 5.5 km (18,000 ft).
The Franco-Italian Mont Blanc/Monte Bianco is 4.8 km (16,000 ft) in altitude above sea level,Mount Fuji, which overlooks Tokyo, Japan, is about 3.8 km (12,000 ft) altitude. Compared to the Andes, Aeolis Mons would rank outside the hundred tallest peaks, being roughly the same height as Argentina's Cerro Pajonal; the peak is higher than any above sea level in Oceania, but base-to peak it is considerably shorter than Hawaii's Mauna Kea and its neighbors.
Discovered in the 1970s, the mountain remained unnamed for several decades. When Gale crater became a candidate landing site, the mountain was given various labels e.g. in 2010 a NASA photo caption called it "Gale crater mound". In March 2012, NASA unofficially named it "Mount Sharp", after American geologist Robert P. Sharp.
Comparison of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) to the sizes of three large mountains on Earth.
In August 2012, the magazine Sky & Telescope ran an article explaining the rationale of the two names and held an informal poll to determine which one was preferred by their readers. Over 2700 people voted, with Aeolis Mons winning by 57% to Mount Sharp's 43%.
Geology map – from the crater floor in Aeolis Palus up the slopes of Aeolis Mons (September 11, 2014).
Rocks in "Hidden Valley" near the "Pahrump Hills" on the slopes of Aeolis Mons as viewed from Curiosity (September 11, 2014; white balanced).
On December 16, 2014, NASA reported detecting, based on measurements by the Curiosity rover, an unusual increase, then decrease, in the amounts of methane in the atmosphere of the planet Mars; as well as, detecting Martian organic chemicals in powder drilled from a rock by the rover. Also, based on deuterium to hydrogen ratio studies, much of the water at Gale Crater on Mars was found to have been lost during ancient times, before the lakebed in the crater was formed; afterwards, large amounts of water continued to be lost.
On June 1, 2017, NASA reported that the Curiosity rover provided evidence of an ancient lake in Gale crater on Mars that could have been favorable for microbial life; the ancient lake was stratified, with shallows rich in oxidants and depths poor in oxidants; and, the ancient lake provided many different types of microbe-friendly environments at the same time. NASA further reported that the Curiosity rover will continue to explore higher and younger layers of Mount Sharp in order to determine how the lake environment in ancient times on Mars became the drier environment in more modern times.
On August 5, 2017, NASA celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Curiosity landing, and related exploratory accomplishments, on the planet Mars. (Videos: Curiosity's First Five Years (02:07); Curiosity's POV: Five Years Driving (05:49); Curiosity's Discoveries About Gale Crater (02:54))
On April 11, 2019, NASA announced that Curiosity had drilled into, and closely studied, a "clay-bearing unit" which, according to the rover Project Manager, is a "major milestone" in Curiosity's journey up Mount Sharp.
Mars Curiosity rover explores Mount Sharp (May 15, 2019)
Curiosity at Mount Sharp
Self-portrait of Curiosity at the Mojave site (January 31, 2015).
As of September 21, 2021, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 3244 sols (3333 total days) since landing on August 6, 2012. Since September 11, 2014, Curiosity has been exploring the slopes of Mount Sharp, where more information about the history of Mars is expected to be found. As of January 26, 2021, the rover has traveled over 24.15 km (15.01 mi) and climbed over 327 m (1,073 ft) in elevation to, and around, the mountain base since landing at "Bradbury Landing" in August 2012.
Close-up map - planned route from "Dingo Gap" to "Kimberley" (KMS-9) (HiRISE image) (February 18, 2014/Sol 547).
Traverse map - Curiosity has traveled over 21.92 km (13.62 mi) since leaving its "start" point in Yellowknife Bay on July 4, 2013 (now beyond the "3-sigma safe-to-land ellipse" border) (HiRISE image) (March 3, 2020/Sol 2692).
Context map - Curiosity's trip to Mount Sharp (star = landing) (August 22, 2019/Sol 2504).
Layers at the base of Aeolis Mons - dark rock in inset is same size as Curiosity (white balanced image).
Curiosity'swheels - Aeolis Mons is in the background (MAHLI, September 9, 2012).
First-Year and First-Mile Traverse Map of the Curiosity rover on Mars (August 1, 2013) (3-D).
Curiosity (in rectangle) in the Pahrump Hills of Mount Sharp – as viewed from space (MRO; HiRISE; December 13, 2014).
Curiosity rover (center bright blue) on Mount Sharp viewed from orbit (MRO; HiRISE; June 5, 2017).
Curiosity's view of the "Rocknest" area – South is center/North at both ends; "Mount Sharp" at SE horizon (somewhat left-of-center); "Glenelg" at East (left-of-center); rover tracks at West (right-of-center) (November 16, 2012; white balanced) (raw color) (interactives).
Curiosity's view of "Amargosa Valley" on the slopes of "Mount Sharp" (September 11, 2014; white balanced image).
Curiosity's southward-looking view on the slopes of "Mount Sharp" (April 11, 2015).
Curiosity's view near "Logan Pass" on the slopes of "Mount Sharp" (May 10, 2015; white balanced image).
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