Steve Squyres says Martian hot springs may have harbored life

NASA scientists have taken ‘the most significant step’ forward in finding evidence for former conditions on Mars suitable for life.

That’s according to Steve Squyres, the principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, called Spirit and Opportunity. Squyres said that a rock split open by the wheels of the Spirit rover revealed that it, and those surrounding it, were made of more than 90 percent silica.

He said that these silica-rich rocks might be deposits from former hot springs on Mars, similar to hot springs found in places on Earth such as at Yellowstone National Park.

Steve Squyres: We have found strong evidence, using the Spirit rover, that there were formerly habitable conditions, conditions that would have been suitable for life, in this place that we’ve been investigating in Gusev crater. That’s very different than saying that there’s evidence for life. We have no evidence for life one way or another, but what we have found is geologic evidence for what would have been suitable conditions for certain types of microbial life.

Certain kinds of bacteria thrive in the most extreme conditions of heat and acid found on Earth. Squyres said though that nothing short of actually bringing Martian rock samples back to Earth for analysis would determine whether life had once been there.

Steve Squyres: Mars is a cold, dry and desolate world today. But in the past, it was very, very different. It was warmer, it was wetter, it was more like Earth.

Our thanks to:
Steve Squyres
Principal Investigator
Mars Exploration Rovers

February 28, 2008

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