Curiosity rover finds purple rocks on Red Planet
Recent Martian photographs taken by Nasa’s Curiosity rover have revealed purple rocks on the surface of the Red planet.
Nasa officials have called this a suggestion to a greater degree of diversity in the geological composition of the region, and a hint as to what caused Mars to lose most of its water, Sputnik news agency reported on Friday.
The photos were taken near the base of 18,000-foot Mount Sharp, one of Mars’ tallest summits.
“Variations in colour of the rocks hint at the diversity of their composition on lower Mount Sharp,” Nasa scientists said in a statement.
“Winds and windblown sand in this part of Curiosity’s traverse and in this season tend to keep rocks relatively free of dust, which otherwise can cloak rocks’ colour,” Nasa said of the purple-hued rocks near the rover’s late-2016 location on lower Mount Sharp.
Curiosity has been exploring the slopes of the enormous mountain for over two years, sending photos back to Nasa the entire time.
The US space agency stated that the purple colouration is caused by the presence of hematite, an iron oxide commonly used on Earth as a pigment, or jewellery component.
Scientists studying Mars find the presence of hematite interesting, as it is typically formed in aqueous environment, suggesting that water may have once been present in the area.
“Where water was, life may have had a chance to thrive as well… knowing just how the hematite on Mars was formed will help us characterise the past environment and determine whether that environment was favourable for life,” Joy Crisp from Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover Project was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile Nasa researchers say to protect astronauts from the harsh Martian environment, the best building material for a new home on the Red Planet may lie in ice.
The surface of Mars has extreme temperatures and the atmosphere does not provide adequate protection from high-energy radiation.
The researchers believe that their “Ice Home” design provides a sound engineering solution to offer astronauts a safe place to call home.
The Mars Ice Home is a large inflatable torus, a shape similar to an inner tube, that is surrounded by a shell of water ice.
This is just one of many potential concepts for sustainable habitation on the Red Planet in support of Nasa’s journey to Mars.
“After a day dedicated to identifying needs, goals and constraints we rapidly assessed many crazy, out of the box ideas and finally converged on the current Ice Home design, which provides a sound engineering solution,” Kevin Vipavetz from Nasa’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, said in a statement on Thursday.