Feeds

Mars: more evidence of a watery past

Rover's broken wheel digs deep

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Over-achieving Mars rover Spirit has literally uncovered new evidence that Mars used to have a much wetter climate, thanks to a dodgy wheel.

Spirit has been on Mars for much longer than mission planners had ever hoped, and is beginning to show its age: one of its six wheels no longer rotates, instead dragging a deep furrow behind the rover as it limps across the Martian surface.

But this has meant researchers have had unexpected access to below surface samples of Martian soil. And it is from one of these samples that this discovery has come.

The rover analysed a patch of the soil it had ploughed up. It turned out to be 90 per cent pure silica. According to NASA, the processes that could have created such a high concentration of silica all "require" water.

According to the rover team, possible mechanisms for the creation of the silica include the soil interacting with the kinds of acid vapour that would be produced by volcanic activity in the presence of water, or water in a hot spring environment.

Revealing tracks on Mars, credit NASA

The rover team made the announcement on a teleconference to discuss the results of the alpha particle x-ray spectrometer. According to Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for the Mars rovers' science instruments, "you could hear people gasp in astonishment".

"This is a remarkable discovery. And the fact that we found something this new and different after nearly 1,200 days on Mars makes it even more remarkable. It makes you wonder what else is still out there," he said.

This is not the first evidence of a wet Martian history that Spirit has found, but it is the most compelling, and suggestive that an earlier Mars might well have been hospitable to life. Earlier discoveries have included patches of water-bearing, sulphur rich soil, alteration of minerals, and evidence of explosive vulcanism. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.