WATER that once flowed on the surface of Mars ‘would have been drinkable’, Nasa scientists have revealed.
They made the discovery after the Martian rover vehicle Curiosity analysed samples of rocks by heating them to more than 1093C (2000F).
The rock contained clay minerals that indicated water once flowed in an ancient stream bed in Mars’s Gale Crater.
‘We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life, that probably if this water was around and you had been there, you would have been able to drink it,’ said Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger.
The samples also revealed elements of sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon – key chemicals for sustaining life as we know it.
While previous missions have revealed the surface of Mars was once wet, this new research suggests water on the planet was much like that on Earth.
John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut who is now a senior science official at Nasa, said: ‘Did Mars ever have a habitable environment? Now we have the answer. Just sitting here, I’m giddy.’
The six-wheeled rover made a dramatic landing near the Martian equator in August for a high-profile two-year mission.
While the £1.7billion Curiosity expedition is not trying to discover evidence of life, it is looking to find areas of the Red Planet where its building blocks exist.
Scientists intend to work with Curiosity in the Yellowknife Bay area for many more weeks before beginning a long drive to Gale Crater’s central mound, Mount Sharp.