Rocks give clues on Mars

Scientists have observed channels on the surface of the planet Mars. What created these channels? Could there have been liquid water flowing on Mars that created them? These are questions scientists have had for some time, and recently, Curiosity, the American space agency NASA’s rover on Mars, provided evidence that there was flowing water on Mars at some point in the past.

Curiosity discovered conglomerate rocks similar to what we have here on Earth. These conglomerate rocks are made up of smaller sized, rounded shaped pebbles and gravel cemented together. Rocks get the “rounded” shape when they get eroded while being carried by wind or water.  However, some of the pebbles in the conglomerate are too large to be carried by wind, and so scientists believe the pebbles were given the rounded shape by flowing water. By looking at the size of the pebbles and gravel in the conglomerate, scientists have estimated the depth of the water body and the speed the water was flowing at. These rocks were created a few billion years ago.

Scientists are very interested in finding out if there are planets that have ever had water on them. This is because most of them believe water is needed to have life on a planet.

Curiosity is basically a car-sized robot on wheels with a laboratory inside it. It has been on Mars for about 2 months. Its mission is to study the rocks and soil on Mars. The robot has a drill at the end of one of its arms which allows it to take samples from deep inside rocks. It has scientific instruments that can study the chemical make-up of the rocks. It even has a laser that can zap rocks and study what the rocks are made up of from a distance. The rover has very good eye sight since it “sees” using 17 cameras. Curiosity is going to be working on the planet for at least one Mars year, which is 687 Earth days (since that’s how long it takes Mars to orbit around the Sun).

Curiosity has a friend on Mars. Opportunity is the name of a rover that has been on Mars since 2004, and is still roaming around on the planet. There are also a few spacecrafts still orbiting Mars and sending data back to Earth. Mars Odyssey has been orbiting the planet since 2001, and it has set a record of being the longest-serving spacecraft at Mars. The Mars Express Orbiter has been orbiting the planet since 2003, while the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been doing so since 2006.
 
Here is a video on Curiosity’s discoveries.

 

 

Image Credits: NASA for the conglomerate rock images and the image of Curiosity