The Mars Orbiter spacecraft has been circling the Red Planet for a decade -- and it recently made a very important discovery.
The Mars Orbiter spacecraft is celebrating its 10th birthday, and to mark the occasion, it has found something on the Mars surface just 100 miles from one of the rovers.
It’s an ancient lake bed that scientists think could have been the last place where life existed on the Red Planet — assuming it ever did, of course, according to an AOL report.
Scientists have been urgently searching for evidence that life once existed on Mars, and they have found clues all over the place but no smoking gun, despite having two rovers on the surface — Mars Opportunity and Curiosity.
But a new finding by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has determined that a lake bed could hold the key. It has salt deposits that could conceivable have housed some of the last living organisms that may have once been on the planet. The water was estimated to be about 3.6 billion years old, about 200 million years more recent than previous estimates, which raises the chances of life once having existed on Mars as it would have had more time to develop.
The salinity levels are also in the range of about 8 percent of the level of the Earth’s oceans, another good sign in that it is within the range that is acceptable for life to be sustained.
The lake bed measures 18 square miles and is an expanse of chloride that is in the Meridiani area, about 100 miles from the Mars Opportunity rover, much too far to visit unfortunately.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was a $720 million project built by Lockheed Martin and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that was launched in August of 2005, reached Martian orbit in March 2006. There are five other active spacecraft that are either in orbit or on the surface of Mars.