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Mars rocks evidence of past habitable conditions
Posted: Fri, Jun 4, 2010, 7:48 AM ET (1148 GMT)
Mars Exploration Rover (NASA/JPL) Analysis of rocks studies by one of NASA's Mars rovers confirms that the planet was once warmer and wetter, and thus more hospitable to life, scientists said Thursday. An outcrop of rocks studied by the rover Spirit in late 2005 contains carbonates, minerals that form in non-acidic water. While the rovers had found evidence of wet conditions early in the planet's history, scientists were unable to determine if the water was acidic, and thus less likely to support life; these rocks showed that at least in some cases the water was neutral and not acidic. The discovery adds to the evidence that the planet was warmer and wetter early in its history, conditions that would have supported the formation of life. The analysis took an extended period in order to remove the effects of dust that had contaminated the rover's spectrometer.
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