.The Curiosity rover is back in action. NASA’s newly resurrected “: butler” is back at work and is revealing a lot surprises back at the control station. What came out of the analysis of the second rock were some very surprising details. It seems that the Red Planet had flowing water once in its long existence.
The rover bore through the Mojave2, the second rock it’s drilling right now and fed some of the pulverized extracts for analysis into its Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument.
The analysis was hardly finished when a remarkable amount of jarosite was detected which is enough to support the idea that Mars, in some places or as whole is more acidic than what was previously believed.
Jarosite is composed of iron and sulfur and widely known to exist only in acidic places. The oxidized mineral is also found in huge amounts in samples obtained here compared to the ones obtained before at Confidence Hills, where Curiosity used to drill last September.
The exceptional surface condition of Mojave, made it a perfect choice as the new drilling site. They appear to be smaller than the grains of rice. NASA describe them as “slender grains” which they suspect could be some form of salt-mineral crystals or something else.
But it was not an ideal place to drill since the surface breaks to pieces upon drilling. This means that the space agency will have to do it another place while they are trying to analyze what the surface might be. The engineers at Jet Propulsion lab behind Curiosity’s operation did everything they could including setting the drill at the lowest level but to no avail.
The rock is also no match to the drill. After just 10 minutes of drilling, at 2.6 inches deep, it was already soft all the way.
There are still plenty of questions surrounding just why the jarosite levels are higher. For instance, it could be because the acidic water at the Mojave 2 site was simply part of the environmental conditions back when the sediments were first deposited; alternatively, they may have been introduced later, by a secondary fluid that soaked the site.