Curiosity Update: Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Living Microbes
Joel Hurowitz, Mars Science Laboratory sampling system scientist, gives a Curiosity Rover update. An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Clues to this habitable environment come from data returned by the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments. The data indicate the Yellowknife Bay area the rover is exploring was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favorable conditions for microbes. The rock is made up of a fine-grained mudstone containing clay minerals, sulfate minerals, and other chemicals. This ancient wet environment - unlike some others on Mars - was not harshly oxidizing, acidic, or extremely salty.