Mount Sharp: The Galaxy’s Newest Hike

Hike your local glen or glade. Hear the sounds of cascading brooks. Take a few days for a rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon, or circumnavigate Mt. Rainier‘s 93 mile Wonderland Trail. Perhaps be lucky enough to trek to Mt. Everest base camp, traversing the foothills of the Himalayas.

Mount Sharp, seen from Mars rover Curiosity. NASA/JPL photo.

Mount Sharp, seen from Mars rover Curiosity. NASA/JPL photo.

Now, start dreaming about Mount Sharp, the most exotic new hike most of us will never do. But, thanks to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory we can follow Curiosity the Mars rover as it begins its approach toward this 18,000 foot mountain.

NASA/JPL comparison of Mount Sharp to high Earth peaks.

NASA/JPL comparison of Mount Sharp to high Earth peaks.

Despite the lack of water falls, the sound of birdsong or the smell of fresh pine needles, Mount Sharp has one thing no other hike this side of the Milky Way can boast: It has never seen the the imprint of a human footstep. For even if you hike to the coolest trek on our planet, you will likely not be alone. You may even find an empty plastic water bottle lying in the forest duff or see the remnants of a campfire from the weeks before.

Contemplate finding complete solitude on virgin ground. Absorb majestic views never seen before, except by a camera on a  rover. But take your own water, as you will find none  on the red planet and take your best down coat, mittens and booties to help  survive nighttime temperatures of -100F. Oh, and take oxygen too. Perhaps the  hike on the nearby forest trail I’ve been to a dozen times might do just fine.

Curiosity rover tracks point toward Mt. Sharp. NASA/JPL photo.

Curiosity rover tracks point toward Mt. Sharp. NASA/JPL photo.

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