NASA's Curiosity navigator discovered the maximum amount of clay in any sample taken so far during its mission on Mars. Curiosity also took a selfie to explore the clay bearing unit from which the sample was taken to celebrate this discovery.
57 different images captured by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), placed at the end of the robotic arm of the Mars vehicle called Curiosity, were combined into a single panoramic image. The arm was digitally removed from the last image to show the vehicle itself in all its glory.
If you look at the left and bottom of the vehicle in the image, you can see two small drill holes. These two goals are called 'Aberlady' and 'Kilmarie' and were created by Curiosity to collect samples in recent days. These are the 20th and 21th drilling sites of the Curiosity so far.
This region is of particular interest as it is believed that there was water in the past and that there might be clay in the water areas. The study of clay still present on the surface may reveal whether there are conditions in life that can support life at a point in Mars's history.
Curiosity uses the CheMin device, which can identify and measure the amount of certain minerals in Mars rocks to analyze samples. CheMin has found very low hematite levels in the device carrying clay. Hematite was abundant in the nearby area of Vera Rubin Ridge researched at the beginning of the year.
These new findings offer strong evidence that there is water once in the region, but researchers are still unsure how water interacts with the rocks. As a result of the collection of water beneath the lakes may have formed rocks with sediment layers at the bottom.