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Curiosity rover  (Source: media.t3.com)
A second drilled sample will be used to confirm these results

NASA's Curiosity rover has found further proof that Mars could have, at one time, supported life.

Curiosity collected a sedimentary rock sample in the Yellowknife Bay area, which is the end of an ancient stream bed in Mars' Gale Crater.

The rock sample contains nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and phosphorous, which are all indicative of possible life.

Also, clay minerals make up about 20 percent of the rock's composition, and according to NASA, clay minerals are the end result of the reaction of igneous minerals and fresh water. The reaction could have taken place within the sedimentary deposit or in the source region of the sediment.

Also, calcium sulfate found with the clay indicates that the soil is neutral or "mildly alkaline." The finding of a combination of oxidized, less-oxidized and non-oxidized chemicals offers an energy gradient that many microbes on Earth take advantage of.

"We have characterized a very ancient, but strangely new 'gray Mars' where conditions once were favorable for life," said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. "Curiosity is on a mission of discovery and exploration, and as a team we feel there are many more exciting discoveries ahead of us in the months and years to come."

A second drilled sample will be used to confirm these results.

Curiosity will spend several more weeks in the Yellowknife Bay area before setting off to Mount Sharp -- a central mound in Gale Crater.

"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

"From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Source: NASA



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RE: Hold your horses
By Labotomizer on 3/13/2013 9:10:48 AM , Rating: 2
And that's the problem with Curiosity. While I understand not wanting to rush this and that the exploration of Mars is a fantastic test ground and stepping stone for humans, we are hamstringing NASA's budget far too much. This thing should have been entirely capable of detecting microbes in addition to analyzing soil samples. But we left that off. Why?

I can't imagine it's cheaper to send another rover in 10 years that can actually find traces of life. Shouldn't we have combined it into one? Also, Titan seems more interesting as well as some of the asteroids out there.

As humans our entire life has been based around expansion and exploration. It's insanely important to keep pushing those limits. But we have decided it's better to waste money on corporate bailouts and playing world police than it is to expand our knowledge as a species. Considering we had people on the moon 50 years ago we should be at a point now where we know Mars extremely well and are now exploring further into the solar system. Not taking baby steps.

Hopefully we find resources on Mars that makes it worthwhile from a commercial aspect. Then we can have companies pushing to get there, and greed is a great motivator.


RE: Hold your horses
By Arsynic on 3/13/2013 9:50:14 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Considering we had people on the moon 50 years ago we should be at a point now where we know Mars extremely well and are now exploring further into the solar system. Not taking baby steps.


Are you still under the delusion that going to the moon was a scientific endeavor? It wasn't. It was a Cold War dick-waving contest between the U.S. and the Soviets. It was war. And people risked their lives or died during this battle.

A weak-kneed American public couldn't stomach the casualties that come along with space exploration without some greater cause involved. The moment someone gets stranded in space and we can watch them slowly die over a live stream is the moment any further exploration dies with them.


RE: Hold your horses
By tng on 3/13/2013 11:58:36 AM , Rating: 2
Very true. Our manned Moon effort ended, what, 3 missions early? We stopped it early because we figured out the USSR was not going to go to the Moon, so we had no need to go anymore.

If the USSR had some plan that was actively trying to put men on Mars, we would have put money into that as well.


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