Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's Official: Mars Could Have Once Had Life

"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." - NASA, 3/12/13

Curiosity, way to do your job like the amazing robot you are. There's a reason I love you so much.

Last August, we sent Curiosity to Mars with several missions--the main one being to determine if Mars had ever been habitable.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Today, thanks to that awesome-tastic rover working just like we'd hoped, we have confirmation that it was.

Curiosity sampled sedimentary rock in the Gale Crater, drilling in to get a fine powder to analyze. A fine, grey powder. Not red.

Intriguing. At least, if you know that the grey powder indicates only partially oxidized chemicals, which were then confirmed upon the actual analysis. What does this mean, for non-science people? This means there could have easily been stuff for microbes to get energy from, such as sulfates. Microbe food, so to speak.

Curiosity has also demonstrated that the soil there isn't particularly acidic or salty, either. In fact, it's pretty much confirmed that the ancient streambed Curiosity's been visiting was a freshwater stream.

Sulfar, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon have all been identified in this sample, which are all ingredients for life. Add that to the surprisingly un-harsh ancient environment of this streambed and the energy resources, and there you go: Mars officially had a point in its history where it would have been quite friendly to microbial life.

This means Earth was not alone in its raw potential for evolving life. Our neighboring planet could've done it, too.

Holy moly, the universe is freaking amazing. *FLAIL OF AWESOME*

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