Friday May 25, 2018
Home Science & Technology Scientists fi...

Scientists find Mars surface replica in India

1
//
80
photo credits :http://www.redorbit.com

Kolkata: Why wait for a million-dollar ticket to Mars when you can have an inter-planetary experience a la Oscar nominated blockbuster “The Martian” right here in India?

One simply needs to head over to the western Indian state of Gujarat to glimpse the remarkable rocky landscape similar to the Red planet.

A replica or “terrestrial analogue” of the Martian surface has been discovered in the state, thanks to Indian scientists from the Space Applications Centre (SAC-ISRO) in Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur and the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) in Hyderabad.

The team identified and documented the presence of a rare mineral jarosite through spectroscopic studies in Matanumadh area (86 km northwest of Bhuj) in Kachch district of Gujarat, a finding which links it to the Red planet. This work is part of a programme initiated by SAC-ISRO under its Mars mission.

“The landscape of Matanumadh with its unusual mineral assemblage, including jarosite, in a basalt terrain, mimics the geological environment of many of the identified jarosite localities on Mars,” Saibal Gupta, professor in Department of Geology and Geophysics at IIT-Kharagpur, told reporters.

Presence of the rare mineral was reported from various parts of the surface of the Red planet by NASA’s Mars exploration rover Opportunity in 2004. Since then, other rovers have detected jarosite at several localities on the planet’s surface.

The fact that jarosite is found in limited natural terrestrial environments means “extreme and unusual” conditions are required for its formation and stabilisation.

“The Martian surface must, at some time, have experienced these conditions. Thus, the positive identification of jarosite, in addition to the previously reported minerals natroalunite and minamiite, is a major argument in favour of the Matanumadh Formation representing a Martian analog locality,” contended Souvik Mitra, of IIT-Kharagpur.

In fact, as a clone, the Indian site more closely resembles the Martian surface than known Western Australian jarosite localites, note the researchers in the study published in the Journal ofGeophysical Research: Planets in March.

The significance of the discovery is multi-fold and could have implications in the way we explore the Martian surface.

NASA is working to send humans to Mars in the 2030s, but there are many milestones to accomplish to ensure that astronauts come back to the Earth safely, the space agency says on its website.

“The two essential conditions for jarosite formation are near-surface acidic water and oxidizing conditions. Understanding how jarosite formed in the Matanumadh Formation may shed light on the final stages of aqueous (water-based) activity in parts of the Martian surface,” said Mitra. Last year, NASA scientists found evidence of flowing water on Mars.

Mitra envisages if the local tourism authorities can educate the locals about the site and its link to Mars, then it could also benefit regional tourism.

Most importantly, in addition to sending up sophisticated robots and probes on Mars to study it, investigations could be carried out right at the Matanumadh Formation at a reduced cost, to understand what transpired on Mars a few billion years ago, according to Gupta.

“This is no substitute to human exploration of the Martian surface, but that could be quite some time in the future. Till then, these analog localities provide a starting point for knowing what to expect.”

“In fact, this work is a demonstration of what collaboration between scientists from different organisations within India can do, and SAC-ISRO is to be commended for this endeavour,” Gupta added. (IANS)

  • Akanksha Sharma

    This is amazing.

Next Story

NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home

0
//
12
NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars
NASA Curiosity Rover Gets its Drilling Groove Back on Mars. Pixabay

After a mechanical problem took NASA Mars rover Curiosity’s drill offline in December 2016, it has now successfully tested a new drilling method on the Red Planet, making a 50-millimetre deep hole in a target called “Duluth”, NASA has said.

Engineers working with the Curiosity Mars rover have been hard at work testing a new way for the rover to drill rocks and extract powder from them.

On May 20, that effort produced the first drilled sample on Mars in more than a year, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new technique, called Feed Extended Drilling, keeps the drill’s bit extended out past two stabiliser posts that were originally used to steady the drill against Martian rocks.

It lets Curiosity drill using the force of its robotic arm, a little more like the way a human would drill into a wall at home.

“The team used tremendous ingenuity to devise a new drilling technique and implement it on another planet,” said Curiosity Deputy Project Manager Steve Lee of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

“Those are two vital inches of innovation from 60 million miles away. We’re thrilled that the result was so successful,” Lee said.

Drilling is a vitally important part of Curiosity’s capabilities to study Mars.

Inside the rover are two laboratories that are able to conduct chemical and mineralogical analyses of rock and soil samples.

The samples are acquired from Gale Crater, which the rover has been exploring since 2012.

“We’ve been developing this new drilling technique for over a year, but our job isn’t done once a sample has been collected on Mars,” said JPL’s Tom Green, a systems engineer who helped develop and test Curiosity’s new drilling method.

Also Read: NASA Probe to ‘Touch’ the Sun Will Carry 1.1 mn Names

“With each new test, we closely examine the data to look for improvements we can make and then head back to our test bed to iterate on the process.”

There’s also the next step to work on — delivering the rock sample from the drill bit to the two laboratories inside the rover.

As soon as this Friday, the Curiosity team will test a new process for delivering samples into the rover’s laboratories, NASA said. (IANS)

Next Story