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Old rover finds new evidence of water on Mars

10-year-old Opportunity reveals chemistry that could have supported life

2:00pm, January 23, 2014

CRATER VIEW  The 10-year-old Mars rover Opportunity casts a shadow over the planet’s Endeavour Crater, which holds traces of ancient water. The rover created this false-colored mosaic image in 2012 by combining pictures taken through different filters of its panoramic camera. 

Ancient Mars may have been a friendlier place for life than scientists once suspected. The veteran Mars rover Opportunity has dug up evidence that groundwater flowed near a giant crater called Endeavour about 4 billion years ago.

And like the ancient lake that rookie rover Curiosity recently explored at Gale Crater (SN Online: 3/12/13), the water at Endeavour was just right for microbial life: not too acidic or salty for cells to thrive, researchers report in the Jan. 24 Science.

“At two landing sites on completely different sides of the planet, we now see evidence for these very benign, water-rich environments,” says Caltech planetary geologist Bethany Ehlmann, who is part of the Curiosity team. “That says a lot about how prevalent life could have been.”

Opportunity began

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