Curiosity's rock analysis shows Mars could have supported life

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/MSSS
A side-by-side comparison of rocks spotted by Curiosity.

Remember the rock that Curiosity drilled into on Mars a few weeks back? The analysis results are in, and the rock's mineral composition shows that the Red Planet may have once been able to support microbial life.

The findings announced Tuesday morning show that the sedimentary rock Curiosity drilled into contains  sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon. These elements, of course, are some of the key building blocks of life as we know it, and the discovery helps support the hypothesis that Mars was once a much more inviting place for living beings than it is now.

According to NASA, the area Curiosity is currently exploring was once part of a river system or "an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favorable conditions for microbes," and that this location isn't far from a streambed that Curiosity stumbled upon back in September. Additionally, NASA researchers say that this particular environment would not have been as harsh as other areas of the planet.

"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," NASA's Michael Meyer said in a release. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

What's next? Curiosity will continue to explore the area it's currently in—known as Yellowknife Bay—for several more weeks. Once it's done with its work in Yellowknife Bay, Curiosity will begin its trek toward Mount Sharp, the mountain that sits in Gale Crater. We can't wait.

[NASA]

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