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Probe finds strongest evidence yet that Mars may have (or does) support life

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Layers with Carbonate Content Inside McLaughlin Crater on Mars

On Sunday, January 20, officials announced that data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft provides evidence of a wet underground environment, and clues that suggest a groundwater-fed lake could have existed in McLaughlin Crater, a crater fifty-seven miles in diameter and 1.4 miles deep.  According to NASA:

“A combination of clues suggests this 1.4-mile-deep (2.2-kilometer-deep) crater once held a lake fed by groundwater. Part of the evidence is identification of clay and carbonate minerals within layers visible near the center of this image. The mineral identifications come from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), also on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.”

In addition to Sunday’s announcement, a new study led by the Natural History Museum, with the University of Aberdeen, followed up with an announcement that all the ingredients for life are (or were) present on the Red Planet.  In the study, researchers speculated that a lake inside McLaughlin Crater would have been fed by groundwater because “McLaughlin lacks large inflow channels, and small channels originating within the crater wall end near a level that could have marked the surface of a lake.” Joseph Michalski, the research paper’s lead author, believes “it is likely the carbonate formed within a lake-style environment rather than being carried into McLaughlin Crater from an external source.”

Dr. Joseph Michalski, lead author and planetary geologist at the Natural History Museum, said:

“All the ingredients were there for life, but only small single-cell organisms could have survived in those conditions. But I would now be more surprised if there was never any life on Mars than I would be if we did one day discover that simple life lived in that environment. And if life existed then, there is a chance it could still exist now.”


Sources; Open Minds, NASA, Daily Mail, University of Arizona