West News Wire: NASA stated this week that a photo taken by its Curiosity rover provides strong evidence that a substantial body of water once existed in a region of the planet that was previously believed to have been a desolate wasteland.
Since it touched down on Mars‘ surface in 2012, the rover, which has been exploring the planet for more than ten years, has greatly improved our grasp of the Martian topography.
The “clearest evidence yet” of clues that a sizable lake likely existed in a region previously believed to have only minor trickles of water has NASA particularly enthused. This discovery was made at a region of the planet known as the “sulfate-bearing unit.”
“This is the best evidence of water and waves that we’ve seen in the entire mission,” said NASA’s Aswin Vasavada in a statement this week. “We climbed through thousands of feet of lake deposits and never saw evidence like this – and now we found it in a place we expected to be dry.”
It is hypothesized that if life microbial or otherwise ever existed on Mars, evidence of this could potentially be discovered near where water was once concentrated. Scientists also expect to find clues as to how the once watery planet transformed into the freezing wasteland it is today.
“Billions of years ago, waves on the surface of a shallow lake stirred up sediment at the lake bottom, over time creating rippled textures left in rock,” NASA added in its statement on Wednesday.
However, efforts to drill for samples at the foothills of Mount Sharp a three-mile-high mountain which once contained streams and lakes have been complicated by the rover encountering rocks too hard for its drill.
“Mars’ ancient climate had a wonderful complexity to it, much like Earth’s,” Vasavada added.
The discovery of water on Mars was first confirmed by NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander in 2008, with subsequent missions locating a large subglacial lake one mile below the southern polar ice cap in 2018.