Greetings From Mars: New Landscape Photo From the Red Planet Is Postcard-Worthy

A new photo released by NASA looks like a picturesque shot from a hiking vacation in the desert with layers of hills and ridges, a mountain looming in the distance. But it's an image of Mount Sharp on Mars.

Taken on Sept. 9 by NASA's Curiosity rover, the photo was turned in a postcard and comes after Mars Curiosity drilled its eighth hole on the Red Planet.

Curiosity has been studying the area around Mount Sharp, a mountain within Gale Crater on the Red Planet. The photo, taken about two miles away from the mountain, was released on Oct. 2.

The rover landed on the planet in August of 2012. It has been drilling holes in the surface of the planet to study its mineral composition. On Tuesday, it drilled its eighth hole into a rock dubbed "Big Sky." The sample will be analyzed within two onboard laboratories.

Big Sky, said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada in a release, "happens to be relatively near sandstone that looks as though it has been altered by fluids — likely groundwater with other dissolved chemicals."

The layers visible in the photo of Mount Sharp also suggest a changing environment on the planet, including the exposure to water billions of years ago.

Last week, NBC News reported that a new study found the "strongest evidence yet" for liquid water on Mars.

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C., tweeted after the discovery: "Water on Mars, not just froze. Is anything drinking it? Someday we will find out on our #JourneyToMars."

So perhaps a Mars hiking trip will be sooner than we think. 

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