NASA: in Martian soil, Mars rover finds conditions once suited for ancient life

These images compare rocks seen by NASA's Opportunity rover and Curiosity rover at two different parts of Mars. On the left is " Wopmay" rock, in Endurance Crater, Meridiani Planum, as studied by the Opportunity rover. On the right are the rocks of the "Sheepbed" unit in Yellowknife Bay, in Gale Crater, as seen by Curiosity. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/MSSS

Big news from NASA JPL this afternoon:
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. "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."
More at the MSL mission website. [NASA]


  1. “Ancient” is a term more correctly used for human culture: ancient Greece, etc. For other lifeforms, the term “early” is more common. /pedant

  2. Great! Wonderful! Whoohoo! Mission accomplished. Can we now please send the rover to *really* interesting geological places such as Mariner Valley and Olympus Monts, rather than spending the next 2 years sampling samples to confirm more of the same?

    1. Would be, if they’d found life. What they actually found were conditions that could potentially have supported life.

      If they *do* find life twice *in the same solar system* that would really upend the drake equation, because it would mean it is much easier than once believed for simple life to evolve in the universe.

    1. *After* we know the planet’s history that we won’t mind destroying the evidence of it. And after we learn how to fabricate large structures on other worlds, including giant enclosures and climate control systems.

        1. Actually, I disagree. If we *do* screw things up royally (or get hit by a large asteroid or supervolcano) and make Earth uninhabitable, it would be really, really good to have a permanent, self-sustaining human presence somewhere, anywhere else in the universe. Otherwise, there goes the future, and all the hopes and dreams of all mankind forever.

          1. Of course it would be really good to have that. But that does not exist, we would have to build it. If we are going to go to all the trouble of building a biosphere essentially from scratch, it would be far more cost effective at every level to build it on *this* planet first.

            Building a plan B in space to avoid a human-made catastrophe on this planet, is about as sensible as launching nuclear waste into the sun so we never have to deal with it here.

          2. I agree with everything in your first paragraph, and I agree that launching nuclear waste into the sun would be quite stupid. But right now we have no Plan B and all, and in many cases no Plan A. Also, nothing on Earth would be as reliable as an off-world colony, so even if we succeed in doing as you suggest, going off-world would be the natural next step

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