The venerable Mars rover Opportunity, the older and smaller cousin of Curiosity, has discovered another water-weathered rock hinting that the Red Planet could have supported life in its ancient past, NASA officials said.
In its last days exploring "Cape York," a site on the rim of the giant Endeavour crater, the Opportunity rover examined a fractured rock unlike any it has seen during its nine years on Mars, researchers say.
With data from a camera and spectrometer on the rover's robotic arm, researchers found that the rock, dubbed "Esperance," is a relic of a wetter time on Mars when life may have been possible.
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"Water that moved through fractures during this rock's history would have provided more favorable conditions for biology than any other wet environment recorded in rocks Opportunity has seen," Opportunity principal investigator Steve Squyres, of Cornell University, said in a statement.
Compared with the composition of rocks previously probed by Opportunity, Esperance is higher in aluminum and silica and lower in calcium and iron, researchers said. And it has other unique characteristics as well.