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A Mars rover  (Source: NASA)

The discovery made on the Red Planet  (Source: NASA)
The Mars rovers continue to impress

NASA this week announced its Mars Exploration Rover Spirit discovered a patch of land on Mars that revealed the possibility of a past environment able to sustain microbial life.

While exploring a scientifically important area of Mars last May, Spirit, while dragging a broken wheel on the surface, discovered a patch of "nearly pure silica" found the Home Plate section of Mars.  Scientists believe it came from a hot-spring or fumarole -- an environment which forces acidic steam to rise through cracks on the planet's surface, also stripping mineral components while leaving only silica behind.

Even though the rovers were not designed to evaluate possible signs of life, each discovery like this one provides pieces to a complicated puzzle on Mars.  Researchers hope to have the opportunity to study this specific location on Home Plate when new missions are launched to the Red Planet.  The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), scheduled to launch in September 2009, will be NASA's first chance to head back to Home Plate.

"Whichever of those conditions produced it, this concentration of silica is probably the most significant discovery by Spirit for revealing a habitable niche that existed on Mars in the past," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator for data gathered by the rovers.

Spirit now has only two weeks to safely arrive at a sun-facing slope on Home Plate before strong dust storms paralyzes it for the winter.

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RE: news?
By Cerberus29 on 12/12/2007 11:52:36 AM , Rating: 2
I hope not, else I'm slightly worried about the people who work there.

RE: news?
By Hieyeck on 12/12/2007 1:19:49 PM , Rating: 3
Because that's what proper scientific method is. You run your tests. Then run them again and again until you can prove it wasn't a fluke or a something mucking up the equipment. Considering it's still running at just under 4 years past it's expiry date, some of it's best equipment is bound to be kaput or working at degraded levels. Trying to verify your data is like trying to do a miniature maze with an extra thick sharpie. It's POSSIBLE, just going to take a damned long time. NASA can't afford to say "Oops. Sorry, my mistake." When they do that, they take alot of heat and bad rap. Columbia, the Mars Climate Ordbiter (this was the metric-imperial mixup, where they crashed the thing because they didn't check the units.) are some of the more recent events.

RE: news?
By FITCamaro on 12/12/2007 2:27:42 PM , Rating: 2
Now if only global warming "experts" would try this.....

RE: news?
By BSMonitor on 12/12/2007 3:16:30 PM , Rating: 3
You think if they called it "Global Climate Change" from the beginning, people would be more receptive?

RE: news?
By ciparis on 12/12/2007 3:24:38 PM , Rating: 3
Sure, but there are unacceptable extremes in both camps.

When there's a rock that looks like it's about to land on your head, arguing about precisely how far you need move out of the way (or who threw it) before taking a single step is nonsensical (and not good science). Anyone requiring that precise of a measurement before committing to move will get what comes naturally; unfortunately, so will anyone standing near them.

Considering the penalty of being wrong in either case, I think I'd chose sane action over inaction any day.

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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