NASA'S Curiosity rover is about to have its cake and eat it too. Around September, the rover should get its first taste of layered sediments at Aeolis Mons, a mountain over 5 kilometres tall that may hold preserved signs of life on Mars.
Previous rovers uncovered ample evidence of ancient water, a key ingredient for life as we know it. With its sophisticated on-board chemistry lab, Curiosity is hunting for more robust signs of habitability, including organic compounds - the carbon-based building blocks of life as we know it.
Observations from orbit show that the layers in Aeolis Mons - also called Mount Sharp - contain minerals thought to have formed in the presence of water. That fits with theories that the rover's landing site, Gale crater, was once a large lake. Even better, the layers were probably laid down quickly enough that the rocks could have held on to traces of microorganisms, if they existed there.To read more, click here.