NASA's Curiosity Rover Found Evidence of Water on Mars

There were a lot of explorations done to search for other heavenly bodies on the universe where man could possibly live! Mars is the nearest feasible to explore. Did NASA found something there worth to prove that we could live there? Well, they did more than that.

NASA has found out that Mars have once a habitual environment! As a matter of fact, NASA’s curiosity rover has collected compelling evidence that ancient Mars was a very wet place.

They were looking for water on Mars? Yes, some of it fit to drink, there’s water, there’s water everywhere.

Thanks to discoveries by NASA's Curiosity rover, shown on the right is the picture of ancient Mars that has emerged during the past few months, which has been exploring the Red Planet since touching down inside Gale Crater in August 2012.

Presented together recently here at the European Planetary Science Congress, though the announcements have come in dribs and drabs, they provide compelling evidence that Mars was quite wet in the distant past.

Scientists presented details of the rover’s most exciting finds, made before it began the long drive toward the towering Mount Sharp this past July, during many sessions at the conference, which was held Sept. 8 to 13 in London.

And the words that could be heard most often were hydrogen, hydration, rocks and water. Especially water.

According to Melissa Rice of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, "We know that on there was what we interpret to be a habitable environment, where water was good enough for us to drink." She said that after a presentation on imaging results from Curiosity’s workhorse Mastcam instrument.

She talked about rocks that Curiosity studied earlier this year, finding evidence that ancient Mars could have supported microbial life.

"We know that we had an initial habitable environment when these rocks formed, and then sometime later — we don't know when — these rocks had water flowing through them, through these fractures, leaving calcium sulfate behind," Rice said. "We don't know if that era would have also been habitable, but it tells us that there were at least two major wet stages."

Mudstone was one of the rocks Rice mentioned that Curiosity drilled into. Researchers found clay minerals inside, which meant either formation in, or substantial alteration by, water on Mars.

Further, this water had to be neutral and benign. That's a big deal as far as habitability goes; Curiosity's smaller, older cousins, NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers, after touching down in 2004, found plenty of evidence of ancient Martian water, but most of it was likely extremely acidic.   

According to presenter Aileen Yingst, a Curiosity science team member from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz, "It’s amazing that we found a mudstone, Mudstones mean that you have very fine grains inside the rock — meaning that these grains settle down slowly. On Earth, that usually means that it happened because of wind or water. And we think that it was probably water."

The mudstone formed in a place where water was calm, such as a lake, at least that was Researchers think — perhaps an ideal place for microbes to survive and reproduce.

"If you’re a microbe that is trying to get a hold on a place to live, you don’t necessarily want to be living in churning water; it’s not good for you to start growing and thriving," Yingst said. "[Calm lake] water is a better place to live."

A tiny pebble that Curiosity rolled over and broke apart is another rock that received a lot of attention at the conference is Tintina.

Strongly hinting at the presence of hydrated minerals that formed when water flowed through billions of years ago, the small piece of rock revealed a snowy-white interior.

More strong evidence of Mars' wet past comes from Curiosity’s discovery of calcium sulfate veins — fissures in the surface rock that, once sampled with a laser-firing instrument called ChemCam, were shown to contain sulfate.

Yingst also added that, "If you have veins, then you have had water that has some sort of rock-forming mineral solution that has dissolved in the water, transported somewhere else and then deposited again. So it’s just another indicator that you’ve had about water activity".

And then there are the ancient river deposits.

One such feature of the Martian landscape, studied by Curiosity while it was at a small depression near its landing site called Yellowknife Bay, is an outcrop researchers dubbed Shaler.

Comprises thin, inclined layers of sediment, Shaler is an example of cross-stratification. Features resembling Shaler are commonly formed by rivers here on Earth; turbulent water creates "dunes" on the riverbed, which slowly migrate in the direction of the current.

Researchers claims that what Curiosity has seen are the remnants of that migration process.

According to presenter Sanjeev Gupta from Imperial College London, a member of the Curiosity team. "The grain size there are small pebbles and coarse sand grains, too large to be lifted up and transported by wind, so the only way we can produce these dunes is by water flow".

"And these look exactly like the sort of features I’ve looked at on Earth formed by ancient rivers," Gupta added. "So we can tell that these outcrops are clear evidence for sustained water transport and dune migration. When they are preserved, they are recording minutes to hours of motion, and they’ve been preserved for millions to billions of years."

The water flows that produced the dunes probably occurred billions of years ago, Gupta said. Gupta also added that a process that will take months, Scientists are still analyzing Curiosity's images of the deposits.

Curiosity is now embarked on a long journey to Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the Martian sky from Gale Crater's center.

By next May or June, team members claims that the 1-ton rover may finally arrive at the mountain's base. Curiosity will then climb up through Mount Sharp's lower reaches, studying the many rock layers as it goes.

"Who knows what’s there? I hope we find evidence for ancient landscapes, and how they changed, how environments evolved," Gupta said.

Another goal is to analyze rocks containing clay minerals at the foothills of Mount Sharp, and understand how they changed into rocks containing sulfate minerals.

"We want to understand what are the mechanisms for those rocks to form," Gupta said. "Was it clay minerals deposited in a lake? Or digenesis, which is when the rocks have been changed when fluids flowed through them and altered the minerals?"

Since before the rover's November 2011 launch, Mount Sharp has been Curiosity's primary destination. Mission scientists are eager to find out what the rover discovers there.

"I think the door is wide open and the best is yet to come," Yingst said. "Judging from the exciting stuff that we found so far, it’s only going to get better."

If NASA could find a way to cultivate water there on Mars, we certainly could live there!


No comments:

Post a Comment