NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover snapped a few photos that could indicate there was once “vigorous” water flow on the Red Planet. If you saw the evidence unlabeled, presented without context, you’d think both were snapped here on Earth. The resemblance is striking, and scientists believe the composition of the rocks is clear affirmation that water — or at least some form of liquid — at one point existed outside of our oceans.
“A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment,” Mars Science Laboratory Project Scientist John Grotzinger said. “It is not our top choice as an environment for preservation of organics, though. We’re still going to Mount Sharp, but this is insurance that we have already found our first potentially habitable environment.”
The water, which may have existed between a thousand and millions of years ago, was likely anywhere from ankle to hip deep. Scientists previously discovered evidence to suggest water once existed on Mars, but this is the first direct observation of streambed material, said William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley.
Scientists are basing their judgements on photos alone, so this isn’t definitive proof by any means. But this is certainly one of the bigger developments since Curiosity touched down on Mars, and could pave the way for something bigger. It’ll be extremely interesting to see what the rover discovers once it reaches Mount Sharp, which scientists believe has layers of sediment that could potentially provide even more answers going forward.