NASA’s Curiosity Rover Spots a Coral-like Flower on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured an image of what appears to be a coral-like ‘flower’ in the Gale Crater on Mars, but is actually a microscopic mineral formation.

Curiosity, the fourth rover the United States has sent to Mars, launched November 26, 2011 and landed on the planet on August 5, 2012.

The mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and involves almost 500 scientists from the United States and other countries around the world.

Curiosity explores the 154-km- (96-mile) wide Gale crater and acquires rock, soil, and air samples for onboard analysis.

The car-size rover is about as tall as a basketball player and uses a 2.1-m- (7-foot) long arm to place tools close to rocks selected for study.

Its large size allows it to carry an advanced kit of science instruments.

One of these is the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), the rover’s version of the magnifying hand lens that geologists usually carry with them into the field.

The new MAHLI image, taken on February 24, 2022 (3,396th Martian day, or sol, of the mission), shows flower-like and spherical rock artifacts on the surface of the Gale crater.

These objects were made in the ancient past when minerals carried by water cemented the rock.

“Curiosity has in the past discovered a diverse assortment of similar small features that formed when mineralizing fluids traveled through conduits in the rock,” the Curiosity team members said.

“Images of such features are helping us understand more about the prolonged history of liquid water in the Gale crater.”