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This may be the closest we’ll ever find to finding a flower on Mars.
During an ongoing investigation of Martian rocks at Gale Crater, the Curiosity rover stumbled into a small surprise. The rock artifact, which looks like a piece of coral or a flower, is smaller than a single coin.
Mars’ “flower” and its adjacent spheroids were “likely made in the ancient past when water-borne minerals cemented rocks,” according to NASA.
Curiosity captured a picture of the tiny rock arrangement on February 24 using the Mars Hand Lens Imager, a camera located at the end of its robotic arm.
The finding is similar to other small features that Curiosity has observed in the past, all of which formed “when mineral fluids traveled through channels in the rock,” according to the agency. Previously, the Opportunity rover was also spotted Martian “blueberries”, Small mineral spheres denote watery soil on the Red Planet.
Every image that Curiosity collects and shares in these features helps researchers piece together a timeline of the presence of water in the crater.
Later this year, Curiosity will celebrate a major milestone: the tenth anniversary of Mars. Curiosity landed on the red planet on August 5, 2012. It has been exploring the crater and the Mount Sharp feature at the center of the crater for the past decade.
The mission is designed to determine if Mars is habitable for microbial life. Early on, the aptly named rover discovered chemical and mineral evidence confirming the planet’s habitability sometime in its distant past. Since then, Curiosity has been investigating the geological record to understand when Mars was best suited to hosting life.
Curiosity continues to make its way through steep rocks and hills and collect rock and soil samples for analysis.
The vehicle-sized rover has paved the way for the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter, which is currently exploring the Jezero Crater, located 2,300 miles (3,700 km) away and will eventually return the first Martian samples to Earth through future missions. The combined efforts of these vehicles could help answer the ultimate question about whether life exists on Mars.
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