A “flower” on Mars? NASA’s Curiosity rover spots a curious rock formation

The Mars Curiosity rover will soon celebrate 10 years on Mars.
Chris Young
The image taken by Curiosity.NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

It's not life on Mars, but it does bear a slight resemblance.

NASA's Curiosity rover spotted a rock formation in the shape of a flower during its ongoing wanderings around the red planet's Gale Crater.

The flower-like formation is as small as a penny, a blog post from NASA reveals.

A Martian "flower"

Curiosity captured the image of the rock formation on February 24 with the Mars Hand Lens Imager, which is located on its robotic arm. According to the U.S. space agency, the rock likely formed into its curious shape "in the ancient past when minerals carried by water cemented the rock."

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In its post, NASA also explained that "Curiosity has in the past discovered a diverse assortment of similar small features that formed when mineralizing fluids traveled through conduits in the rock. Images of such features are helping scientists understand more about the prolonged history of liquid water in Gale Crater."

The discovery recalls another interesting rock formation discovery made by China's Yutu 2 rover on the far side of the moon. In December, the rover spotted a distant object that scientists dubbed a "mystery hut" due to its unusually symmetrical outline. China's space program sent its rover to investigate and found that, rather disappointingly, it was merely a rock

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Curiosity and Perseverance pave the way for human missions

Impressively, NASA's Curiosity will celebrate its tenth anniversary on Mars (in Earth years) in the summer. The rover landed on the red planet on August 5, 2012, and has been exploring the Gale Crater on the planet ever since. Early on in its mission, the rover found chemical and mineral evidence showing that the planet once had a habitable climate.

The machine is still investigating the red planet, and it was recently joined by NASA's Perseverance, which is searching for evidence of ancient life on Mars. That rover recently confirmed that Mars' Jezero Crater was once a massive lake, and it also carried a small helicopter, called Ingenuity, that carried out the first-ever controlled flight on another planet. All of this, of course, is paving the way for the first crewed missions to the red planet, the most ambitious science expedition in human history.