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Published:March 13th, 2013 17:56 EST

Ancient Mars Had Conditions that Supported Life

By John Pustelnik

A rock sample collected from NASA`s Mars Curiosity rover has revealed that Mars had conditions that were once suitable for life.

NASA`s Curiosity rover drilled into the red planet for the first time and collected a sample of the planet to be analyzed.


It was found that the sample contained sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon. All of these chemicals are associated with areas where life flourishes.

"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for NASA`s Mars Exploration Program. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

The sample retrieved was gray, rather than red like the planets surface. This is because the sample contained a mixture of chemicals that were oxidized at various levels, as well as non-oxidized chemicals.

"The range of chemical ingredients we have identified in the sample is impressive, and it suggests pairings such as sulfates and sulfides that indicate a possible chemical energy source for micro-organisms," said Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator of the SAM suite of instruments at NASA`s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Curiosity landed on Mars seven months ago. Since then, it has discovered an ancient river bed on the planet. A few hundred yards from that river bed is where the rock sample was retrieved.

"We have characterized a very ancient, but strangely new `gray Mars` where conditions once were favorable for life," said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist. "Curiosity is on a mission of discovery and exploration, and as a team we feel there are many more exciting discoveries ahead of us in the months and years to come."

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