There's iron in them thar Martian hills

Future Martian explorers should find it easier to locate minerals deposits on Mars thanks to a team of Australian researchers.

The study, which appears in the journal Planetary and Space Science, could also help in the search for life on the red planet.

Michael West of the Australian National University and Dr Jonathan Clarke of University of New South Wales say while there is mineral wealth on Mars, it won't be easy to access.

"The bulk of the elements you would require if you want to have long term settlements could be found on Mars," says West. "[But] it's unlikely in the near term that we're going to see large-scale mining operations on the surface of Mars"

According to West, the most plentiful mineral on Mars is iron, reflected by the colour of the planet's 'rusted' red surface.

He says, several years ago NASA's Opportunity rover discovered ball-bearing shaped deposits of haematite congregations - nicknamed 'blueberries'- which are rich in iron.

"The beauty of those is that you can extract them with a vacuum cleaner."


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