NASA Curiosity Rover's Rock Sample Suggests Life on Mars
March 12, 2013 5:00 PM
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."
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