Water on Mars his been turned into a near dead certainty by NASA's Mars rover, researchers told the world. Eight years into its sojourn on the Red Planet, the Opportunity rover found a vein of a shiny mineral along the rim of a large crater. The mineral is "almost certainly gypsum," Fox News reported, which would have been deposited by liquid water billions of years ago, according to researchers.
"This is the single most powerful piece of evidence for liquid water at Mars that has been discovered by the Opportunity rover," Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Opportunity's principal investigator, told reporters during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
The missions of Opportunity and its sister rover Spirit were to last just three months when they landed in January 2004. Since then, Opportunity was sent on a three-year journey to the Endeavor crater, where it arrived in August. Spirit stopped functioning last year.
Analysts concluded that the vein of gypsum was formed where Opportunity discovered it, according to researchers. The deposit, dubbed "Homestake," is about 50 centimeters long and about 2 centimeters across, the Ars Technica website reported. The small size didn't dampen researchers' enthusiasm, however.
"There was a fracture in the rock, water flowed through it, gypsum was precipitated from the water. End of story," Squyres said. "There's no ambiguity about this, and this is what makes it so cool."
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