With drives on July 4 and July 7, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has departed its last science target in the "Glenelg" area and commenced a many-month overland journey to the base of the mission's main destination, Mount Sharp.
The rover finished close-up investigation of a target sedimentary outcrop called "Shaler" last week. On July 4, it drove 59 feet (18 meters) away from Shaler. On July 7, a second drive added another 131 feet (40 meters) on the trip toward a destination about 5 miles (8 kilometers) away, the entry to the lower layers of Mount Sharp.
Mount Sharp, in the middle of Gale Crater, exposes many layers where scientists anticipate finding evidence about how the ancient Martian environment changed and evolved. In the Glenelg area, where Curiosity worked for the first half of 2013, the rover found evidence for an ancient wet environment that had conditions favorable for microbial life. This means the mission already accomplished its main science objective.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover.