Opportunity, aka The Little Rover That Could, is still making important discoveries 10 years into its Martian jaunt. After the devastating loss of twin rover Spirit in 2011, Opportunity rallied and kept trekking, only to recently discover a fascinating rock near Endurance Crater.
One of the oldest rocks ever analyzed, the specimen shows that drinkable water once existed on Mars. Opportunity identified a type of clay mineral on the rock that is only formed in neutral water, like the water found on Earth. Steve Squyres, the principle Opportunity researcher, noted that Opportunity has found other liquids that could chemically be described as water in the past, but these samples were all closer to sulphuric acid. Curiosity recently found similar evidence of neutral water at Gale Crater. Squyres said:
It is really striking to me, how similar the stories are for the rocks at Gale and Endeavour crater.
Though the desert conditions on Mars have made other Martian water acidic, the findings contribute to theories that Mars may once have been habitable. Nice hustle, Opportunity. Way to be. [EuroNews, The Guardian]
Photo Courtesy of ESA