Curiosity finds key ingredients required to support life on mars
NASA’s Curiosity rover, which is exploring Mars, has identified sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon – some of the key chemical ingredients required to support life – in the powder it drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet. It indicated sulfides and sulfates like structures that indicate a possible chemical energy source for micro-organisms.
The Yellowknife Bay area, which the rover is exploring, was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other supporting conditions for microbes.
It was found that the rock was made up of a fine grain mudstone containing clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals. The wet environment, unlike some others on Mars, was not harshly oxidising, acidic, or extremely salty. The presence of calcium sulfate along with the clay suggests the soil is neutral or mildly alkaline.
The Grey substance:
Scientists were astonished to find a mixture of oxidised, less-oxidised, and even non-oxidised chemicals providing an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth exploit to live. This partial oxidation was first indicated at when the drill cuttings were found to be grey rather than red.