Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons

Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons

Mars in California

Shaka Guide

This drive feels like a roller coaster, dontcha think? And this ride didn’t have a two-hour wait. Even though the road is one-way, let’s still be careful and avoid any car collisions today. I wouldn't want ya to get hurt.

Hey here’s a question for ya. Does this barren wasteland remind you of anything? Another planet, perhaps? Well, Nasa thinks so anyway. It turns out that Death Valley bears a resemblance to the surface of Mars. And, the lack of plant life, endless rock, and extreme environment create a handy testing ground for Martian rovers. 

Here’s an example. Y’all remember the Nasa rover Curiosity? Nasa launched Curiosity in November 2011 to determine if Mars can currently sustain or has ever sustained life. And, over a decade later, Curiosity is still going strong. As of 2023, Curiosity is still exploring the surface of Mars, detecting minerals and water. Its findings suggest that Mars may have supported life for millions of years. And guess what? Many of Nasa’s experiments and instrument tests leading up to Curiosity's launch were done right here in Death Valley.

Not only that, but scientists believe that Death Valley resembles what Mars looked like billions of years ago. That is, Mars was a very dry, but not completely dry, desert with minimal rainfall. Pretty cool, huh? 

And as Artists Drive straightens out here and returns to the valley, I want you to look directly ahead, just above the road. You see a low, kinda brownish mound? That’s called Mars Hill. Why do you think it’s called Mars Hill? Well, because the mound’s scattered rocks resemble the surface of Mars! When we get down there, check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Visiting Death Valley?

Find more stories like this on our Death Valley National Park tour!

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