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Mars Rover Turns Up Evidence Of Water 95

New submitter horselight writes "Recent data obtained from Mars indicates the environment is not as hostile to life as once thought. 'An examination of data gathered by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity reveals deposits that, on Earth, are only created by water moving through the rock.' The study's lead author, Steve Squyres, said, 'From landing until just before reaching the Endeavour rim, Opportunity was driving over sandstone made of sulfate grains that had been deposited by water and later blown around by the wind. These gypsum veins tell us about water that flowed through the rocks at this exact spot. It's the strongest evidence for water that we've ever seen with Opportunity.' Gypsum veins and other features indicating water movement on the surface of Mars have been observed to be much more common than previously thought."
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Mars Rover Turns Up Evidence Of Water

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  • by camg188 ( 932324 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:08AM (#39889859)
    The mineral deposits described are formed in water here on Earth. They would have a different chemical composition if they were deposited in something other than water.
    What would be interesting to know would be the age of the rocks.
  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:14AM (#39889929)

    NASA, you know I love you, but it's time for an intervention.

    It's time to stop pretending to be surprised every time you find evidence for water on Mars. The evidence for a persistently wet -- or at least damp -- ancient Mars has been indisputable for a decade. Move your press releases beyond that, to the same questions you're asking in the scientific literature: just how much water, when, and for how long?

  • by Kelbear ( 870538 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:32AM (#39890165)

    This is news for nerds, who are fascinated by the prospect of life on Mars in the past. Any additional, or supportive information is another opportunity to ruminate over the possibilities. Finding evidence of life on Mars also breathes life into our most cherished nerd dreams of what might be out there. Everything I know so far just tells me space is essentially empty and forever beyond mankind's reach. But if we can find evidence of past life on Mars, it would be an anecdotal data point saying that the universe might be brimming with life such that 2 planets within a single solar system could have life on them. It'd be nice to know that we're not the only ones out there, even if we can never know any of them.

    Right now in the grand scheme of things, it seems that we live short brutish lives, and even the lifespan of our civilization will be incredibly brief, before the universe as we know it returns to being just...empty. When we die it's comforting to know that we are survived by our friends and family(at least for a while). When humanity goes extinct, it would be nice to know that there's probably life somewhere in the universe will continue (for a while).

  • by ZeroSumHappiness ( 1710320 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @10:43AM (#39890289)

    I wonder how you would go about dating the rocks on Mars. On Earth we have good estimates of initial U-235/U-238 ratios (and other radioactive materials) and the carbon cycle allows us to C-14 date things. But on another planet with so many differences from Earth what good assumptions do we have to key off of?

  • by AngryDeuce ( 2205124 ) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:15AM (#39890679)

    Such as the Tardigrade ("Water Bear") []...

    Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal. Some can survive temperatures of close to absolute zero (273 C (459 F)), temperatures as high as 151 C (304 F), 1,000 times more radiation than other animals, and almost a decade without water. Since 2007, tardigrades have also returned alive from studies in which they have been exposed to the vacuum of outer space for a few days in low earth orbit.

    It seems to me that organisms like this would be able to survive on Mars, even in it's current conditions, so it seems to me that we're going to discover some form of elementary life on Mars eventually, it's just a matter of time (and looking in the right places, which could be miles below the surface for all we know).

    Still, as a layperson that reads stuff like this as a hobby, I think we'd discover life on Europa [] first...if we ever manage to figure out a way to get a probe under the ice (and of course keep it completely sterile, which given the hardiness of those water bears would seem to be damn hard to do beyond any shred of doubt for an earth-originating probe).

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.