Just prior to having to put the Mars rover Curiosity into a slumber mode due to a bad software upgrade, the plucky explorer had completed one of its first serious missions – drilling into the surface of Mars and then analyzing the collected sample.
One of the big questions that NASA, and the world, wanted to find an answer to with the most recent rover exploration of the Mars was if the planet could have supported life at some point in its past.
It was this question that scientists at NASA were hoping that Curiosity would be able to answer after analyzing samples that it recently collected on the planet’s surface.
NASA already stated that the planet could have had microbial life due to the discovery of an ancient streambed discovered by Curiosity.
The sample was collected from a location on Mars called Yellowknife Bay in the Gale Crater was found to contain sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon. They also noticed that the sample contained a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and non-oxidized chemicals that led scientists to believe that these could be good energy sources for some of the microbes we have here on Earth.
An interesting point also surfaced at the press conference to announce the results of the drilling analysis. John Grotzinger, a project scientist at the Mars Science Lab at the California Institute of Technology, said that with these results, the mission has moved from being one of searching for water on Mars to one of finding habitable, or formerly habitable, environments.