Mankind has always been curious about alien life. Are we alone in this vast universe? Or are there planets harboring alien life? The quest for alien life continues with several missions targeting our very own red neighbor – Mars. Curiosity – the rover that’s landed on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Mission – has been discovering interesting stuff. Curiosity is designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment that supported life, at least in the form of microbes. Curiosity’s whole mission is to determine the planet’s habitability.

image source: NASA

And it looks like the rover is doing its job pretty well. It has been climbing a layered Martian mountain trying to find evidence of how ancient lakes and wet underground environments changed billions of years ago. The rover has found Hematite, clay minerals and boron more abundant in layers farther uphill as compared to lower, older layers the rover had examined earlier in the mission. Scientists are now analyzing the data and discussing how groundwater moving later through the accumulated layers altered and transported ingredients. The effects of groundwater movement are more pronounced in mineral veins, NASA report says.

A Dynamic System

“There is so much variability in the composition at different elevations, we’ve hit a jackpot,” said John Grotzinger, of Caltech in Pasadena, California. John, along with other members of Curiosity’s science team presented an update about the status of the mission this week. The rover has found interesting variations in the minerals and elements, indicating a dynamic system. “They interact with groundwater as well as surface water. The water influences the chemistry of the clays, but the composition of the water also changes. We are seeing chemical complexity indicating a long, interactive history with the water. The more complicated the chemistry is, the better it is for habitability”, added John. The recent findings about chemical substances along the mountain’s terrain will be substantial to the goal of finding life on Mars. The boron, hematite, and clay minerals underline the mobility of elements and electrons, and that is good for life. So there are high chances our Red neighbor harbors life!


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