Mars once had fresh water, the right energy gradients and chemicals to support life say NASA scientists13 Mar 2013, 09:57 UTC
According to NASA scientists, an analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Data returned by the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments. allowed scientists to identifiy sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -some of the key chemical ingredients for life – in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock at the Yellowknife Bay ancient water stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet.
Further evidence of flowing fresh water was also found. The drilled red rock was discovererd to be made up of a fine-grained grey mudstone interior containing clay minerals, sulphate minerals and other chemicals. These clay minerals are a product of the reaction of relatively fresh water with igneous minerals, such as olivine, also present in the sediment. This ancient wet environment, unlike some others on Mars, was not harshly oxidizing, acidic or extremely salty. The presence of calcium sulphate along with the clay suggests the soil is neutral or mildly alkaline.
Scientists were surprised to find a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and even non-oxidized chemicals, providing an energy gradient of the sort many ...