New rover discovery points to Martian lifeMay 23rd, 2008 - 2:07 pm ICT by admin
Washington, May 23 (IANS) Could there have been life on Mars after all? The question has once again taken on urgency after the Mars Rover Spirit discovered silica deposits in the Gusev crater of the red planet.
The deposits are like those found around hydrothermal vents on Earth and the finding turns the spotlight on a site that may have traces of ancient Martian life.
“On Earth, hydrothermal deposits teem with life and those associated silica deposits typically contain fossil remains of microbes,” said Jack Farmer, co-author of a paper on the subject.
“But we don’t know if that’s the case here,” Farmer added, “because the rovers don’t carry instruments that can detect microscopic life.
“What we can say is that this was once a habitable environment where liquid water and the energy needed for life were present.”
NASA landed the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on opposite sides of the planet in January 2004 to look for rocks showing the presence of water.
As of now, the rovers are more than four earth years into a mission designed to last just three months. Despite dust collecting on their solar panels and mechanical wear-and-tear, both are continuing to explore the planet.
The paper on the silica discovery has appeared in the latest issue of the journal Science. The lead author of the paper is Steven Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for the rover science payload.
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