I love the report of the Martian Robot explorations that come from NASA in the quest to find life on Mars. This is a new report from the Space Reporter.
NASA’s Opportunity rover is celebrating ten years since it landed on Mars, on January 24, 2004. In the rover’s 24-mile journey from its landing site to the rim of Endeavour Crater, it has uncovered evidence that is helping to elucidate the early history of Mars. The latest findings have been analyzed by a team led by Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University.
According to a NASA statement, Opportunity has analyzed rocks older than any others encountered by the rover. The Opportunity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory employed an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that is designed to map minerals on the Martian surface. This instrument, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, began scanning the vicinity of Opportunity in 2010, and detected the signature of a clay mineral called iron-rich smectite at a site on Endeavour’s rim known as Matijevic Hill.
The Opportunity team steered the rover in a loop, guided by the orbiter, until it arrived at the promising outcrop. There, Opportunity had the chance to study the smectite in its proper context and determine how its location and position in the Martian geological record relate to those of other minerals and rock layers.
Arvidson and team’s analysis of the new data indicates that the warmer, wetter conditions in which the iron-rich smectite formed existed before Endeavour Crater was gouged out approximately 4 billion years ago. This environment also predates acidic and oxidizing conditions represented in rocks previously studied by the rover. The environment would have been suitable for microbial life. The new research has been published in the January 24 issue of the journal Science.
Although Opportunity’s twin rover, Spirit, ceased to function in 2010, Opportunity is still working well in conjunction with the larger, newer Curiosity rover half a planet away. Both rovers are guided by data gathered by the Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance orbiters.
I can't help wondering if some of the conditions that destroyed Mars might have been around the time when the believed meteorite hit Earth destroying the dinosaurs. Its only a thought, but maybe the solar system had a rain fall of meteorites many billion years ago along a scale more intense then we get at present.
Of course I'm no scientist and my dates could be way off and I'm sure NASA scientists have explored such a possibility. I will watch the continuous reports of the Martian exploration robots. Its very exciting stuff and I hope they find some fossil evidence of life, even if its the minutest form of life that once was.