The Mars rovers (Curiosity and Perseverance) launched by NASA, recently unveiled new aspects of planet Mars, as reported by NASA.
Curiosity constitutes the NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission and is part of the space agency’s Mars Exploration Programme (MEP), states NASA. Curiosity was launched on the 26th of November in 2011; this rover landed on Mars on the 5th of August 2012. This rover is expected to investigate the presence of evidence regarding the red planet’s ability to host life: if Mars possessed suitable environmental conditions to support small living organisms (microorganisms).
In the early days of its mission, Curiosity managed to find chemical as well as mineral evidence of past habitable environmental conditions on Mars. This rover continues to explore the Martian terrain, which serves as a possible record for Curiosity find evidence of microbial life. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is a division of Caltech, California, USA, leads the Curiosity mission.
Recently, Curiosity took a close-up picture of a rock (named as ‘Terra Firme’) that appears to be similar to an open book, states NASA. This image was captured on the 15th of April, 2023; recorded to be the 3,800th Martian day (or sol: nearly 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth).
The rover took this image with the help of the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), which is placed at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm. MAHLI is like a magnifying hand lens that can take microscopic images and HD videos with the color quality of a consumer digital camera. The captured image shows the rock to be around 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) across, reports NASA.
Moreover, rocks having unusual shapes are common on the red planet, states NASA; these would often form due to the seepage of water through the cracks present in a rock, which was present from ancient times, explains NASA. After ages of being subjected to sand-blasting by the wind, the softer part of the rock is carved away and the harder materials, which are transported by the water, are left behind.
Another new set of images recorded by NASA’s Perseverance rover can reveal signs of an ancient river, which had significantly strong currents, on the red planet, states NASA. This river might be deeper and faster moving in comparison to the ones researchers have seen evidence for, claims NASA.
Perseverance is currently exploring the top of a fan-structured pile of rocks (sedimentary), which is located 250 meters above the ground and possesses layers that are curved in nature; this pertains to flowing water, confirms NASA.
Delving deeper into the environments that may have held water once upon a time can aid in researcher’s efforts to find signs of microbial life, which could be persevered in rocks on the red planet, explains NASA.
Another aspect the researcher desire to explore is whether the water flowed into shallow streams that are located nearer to Curiosity’s discoveries—Gale Crater (a 150 kilometer-wide ancient crater that could have been a basin harboring salty water).
The images were taken by Perseverance with the help of a multi-color, stereo-imaging system, called the Mastcam-Z, which is located on the rover’s mast. This system uses focusable and zoomable cameras, which have a color range just beyond that of human color perception (including UV and infrared colors).
The team continues to study the Mastcam-Z images for extra evidence. Along with this, they are also looking into data obtained from below the surface, confirms NASA. Furthermore, NASA highlights the mission of Perseverance: astrobiology, which involves searching for signs of ancient life (microbial).
The rover, which was launched on the 30th of July in 2020 and landed on the 18th of February in 2021, is expected to help characterize Mars’ past weather conditions as well as geology and collect Martian rock, broken rock, and dust.