Feeds

Mars: more evidence of a watery past

Rover's broken wheel digs deep

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.