Rock samples collected on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover have revealed that the Red Planet may have, at one time, supported life.
“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.”
All indications point to a time when Mars harbored living microbes in some environments that were not wholly unlike those on Earth, including wet areas:
“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.”
More samples will be taken, and more exploration will be done. As time passes, we’re beginning to see a clearer picture of the earlier conditions of Mars, and perhaps the ultimate fate of our own planet.
Such findings — particularly of the Earth’s same “building blocks” of life — also underline the possibility that life may bounce from planet to planet, known as the panspermia hypothesis. Perhaps life on Earth arrived from Mars, or even vice versa.
Now, if only they could find some abandoned buildings or, I don’t know, fossils…
Image credit: NASA