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Tracks left by Spirit -- Image courtesy of NASA
Findings collected by the Mars rover Spirit gets scientists excited for what other secrets the Red Planet may hide

Scientists have conducted a lot of research to discover signs of water and possible life on Mars.  A recent discovery by a NASA rover has created excitement in the scientific community: the Mars rover Spirit collected soil samples that makes scientists strongly believe Mars was once wet. 

The rover found some Martian soil with high levels of silica, which needs water to crystalize.  Basic chemical analysis on the soil revealed the soil composition contained up to 90 percent silica.  This soil, located in Gusev Crater, is the strongest evidence that water, at some point in the planet's history, existed.

Scientists are unsure how the silica deposit in the crater originally formed.  The most likely theory is that soil mixed with acid vapors, created by volcanic activity, along with a strong presence of water.  Another popular idea is that the silica was created from water from a hot spring.

Spirit's discovery "reinforces the fact that significant amounts of water were present in Mars' past, which continues to spur the hope that we can show that Mars was once habitable and possibly supported life," said Doug McCuistion, NASA Mars exploration program director.

Oddly enough, the silica discovery happened due to a Spirit mechanical problem.  The bright patches of silica-rich soil were discovered when one of the rover's wheels dragged through the topsoil, revealing the bright colored silica-soil underneath.

Scientists are anxious to continue their research to discover what else is on the Red Planet.  Research indicates ice under the Martian surface varies in depth from location to location.
Late last year, NASA researchers used the Mars Global Surveyor to discover water flowed recently on the Red Planet.




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