|Images by NASA; Panorama by The New York Times|
The shadow of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, looking toward the base of Mount Sharp, which rises more than three miles above the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater floor.
About 3.5 billion years ago — around the time life is thought to have first arisen on Earth — Mars had a large freshwater lake that might well have been hospitable to life, scientists reported Monday.
The lake lay in the same crater where NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity landed last year and has been exploring ever since. It lasted for hundreds or thousands of years, and possibly much longer.
Whether any life ever appeared on Mars is not yet known, and Curiosity was not designed to answer that question. But the data coming back from the planet indicate that the possibility of life, at least in the ancient past, is at least plausible.
John P. Grotzinger, a professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology who is the project scientist for the Curiosity mission, said that if certain microbes like those on present-day Earth had plopped into that ancient Martian lake, they would most likely have found a pleasant place to call home.
NY Times: Ancient Martian Lake May Have Supported Life, Kenneth Chang
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