Ancient Mars harbored long-lasting lakes, boosting the odds that life could have existed on the Red Planet billions of years ago, a new study suggests.
A series of freshwater lakes within Mars’ 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater likely persisted for hundreds or thousands of years at a time, and perhaps even longer, according to the new study, which is based on observations made by NASA’s 1-ton Curiosity rover.
While these individual lakes were apparently transient, drying out and filling up repeatedly over time, the overall lake-and-stream system inside Gale Crater existed for a quite a long time, researchers said. [Photos: The Search for Water on Mars]
“Even if the lake goes away, there’s still going to be a groundwater table,” study lead author John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, told Space.com.
“If life had evolved on Mars, you now have a habitat which is perpetually wet that would allow microbes to be sustained,” added Grotzinger, a Curiosity team member who previously served as project scientist on the $2.5 billion mission. “Those environments would have existed probably for millions, if not tens of millions of years throughout the rocks that we see.”
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