NASA Curiosity Mars rover ready to eat, analyse rock powder

NASA

Water is believed to be a key ingredient for life.

"The rocks in this area have a really rich geologic history and they have the potential to give us information about multiple interactions of water and rock," said Curiosity scientist Joel Hurowitz, also with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The fine-grained rocks are filled with veins and spherical deposits, including what appears to be calcium sulfate, a mineral which forms on Earth when water flows through fractures in rock. Mars is the planet in our solar system most like Earth.

"When you find exactly these sorts of conditions on Earth ... and everything still goes right, it's still an accident of fate to preserve organics," Curiosity's lead scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena told Reuters.

"So we'll have to separate at some point the pursuit of what may have been a habitable environment from what may or may not be an environment that preserves organics," he said.

"Obviously we're interested in the organics but right now we're sort of on the pathway to hopefully characterizing this place as a habitable environment," Grotzinger said.

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