NASA – An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA‘s Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.
Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life — in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.
This discovery is based on the chemical analysis of powder and was the first time a robot sent from Earth had drilled on another planet.
“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.”
Powder from the drill was a gray-green color, meaning it was not highly oxidized, said David Blake, principal investigator for Curiosity’s Chemistry and Mineralogy investigation at NASA’s Ames Research Center. That means if there were organic material present there, it could have been preserved.
“We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it,” said John P. Grotzinger, the California Institute of Technology geology professor who is the principal investigator for the NASA mission.
Curiosity landed in Gale Crater, which hosts a mound called Mount Sharp. The bedrock in the crater where the rover drilled appears to be located in an ancient network of stream channels, which came down from the crater’s rim, NASA said.
Curiosity still has plans to travel to Mount Sharp, where it will slowly climb the mountain analyzing the sedimentary rock to explore its geological history.
“The question is: How many of these different kinds of ‘batteries’ can we find at Gale Crater? I think that really becomes our mission along with the search for organic compounds,” Grotzinger said.