After figuring out those strange stains on the slopes of Mars might actually be remnants of water, NASA is retasking the Curiosity rover to check them out and gather some samples. The perks of already having some tech on the Red Planet, right?
NASA used data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to determine that the stains on the slopes are what researchers call recurring slope line (RSL). Aviation Week reports the space agency is planning to send the Curiosity to a slope near its current location, two gullies near the 2.4-mile-high Mount Sharp the rover is currently exploring. Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said the rover will allow them to get higher-resolution photos that might actually be able to provide some true clarity.
If the closer look reveals there might actually be some RSL on the slopes, NASA would consider using Curiosity to actually sample the area to see if they can find water. Of course, a mission like this would still require quite a lot of approval within NASA’s leadership structure — meaning there are still some hoops to jump through, and even more if they actually push to take samples.
It might still be early, but this could turn into a very exciting side mission for Curiosity. It’d save NASA years (since they wouldn’t have to wait for another mission) and could provide some answers to the lingering question of life on Mars. Or at least it’ll give us a feel for what we’ll find once we finally put boots on the ground.