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Mars had two wet eras, Curiosity rover tells us

At the European Planetary Science Congress, researchers summed up the flood of evidence that Mars was once a wet planet.

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The water flows that produced the dunes probably occurred billions of years ago, Gupta said. Scientists are still analyzing Curiosity's images of the deposits, a process that will take months, he added.

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Trek to Mount Sharp

Curiosity is now embarked on a long journey to Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the Martian sky from Gale Crater's center.

The 1-ton rover may finally arrive at the mountain's base next May or June, team members say. Curiosity will then climb up through Mount Sharp's lower reaches, studying the many rock layers as it goes.

"Who knows what’s there? I hope we find evidence for ancient landscapes, and how they changed, how environments evolved," Gupta said.

Another goal is to analyze rocks containing clay minerals at the foothills of Mount Sharp, and understand how they changed into rocks containing sulfate minerals.

"We want to understand what are the mechanisms for those rocks to form," Gupta said. "Was it clay minerals deposited in a lake? Or digenesis, which is when the rocks have been changed when fluids flowed through them and altered the minerals?"

Mount Sharp has been Curiosity's primary destination since before the rover's November 2011 launch. Mission scientists are eager to find out what the rover discovers there.

"I think the door is wide open and the best is yet to come," Yingst said. "Judging from the exciting stuff that we found so far, it’s only going to get better."

Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebookand Google+Original article on  SPACE.com. Follow Katia Moskvitch on Twitter @SciTech_Cat.

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