cientists have concluded the part of Mars that NASA's Opportunity rover is exploring was soaking wet in the past.
Evidence the rover found in a rock outcrop led scientists to the conclusion. Clues from the rocks' composition, such as the presence of sulfates, and the rocks' physical appearance, such as niches where crystals grew, helped make the case for a watery history.
"Liquid water once flowed through these rocks. It changed their texture, and it changed their chemistry," said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "We've been able to read the tell-tale clues the water left behind, giving us confidence in that conclusion."
Dr. James Garvin, lead scientist for Mars and lunar exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington, said, "NASA launched the Mars Exploration Rover mission specifically to check whether at least one part of Mars ever had a persistently wet environment that could possibly have been hospitable to life. Today we have strong evidence for an exciting answer: Yes."
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Editor: The above picture illustrates the erosion created by flowing water on the surface of Mars, appearing as familiar as stones you may find by a river or sea here on Earth. The folks at NASA's JPL are very excited to find that the planet could have once supported life. This may be trivially significant, or bring life to some of the wacky theories surrounding Mars, though I seriously doubt they'll find anything quite fitting of a Flash Gordon episode.