NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds possible sign of life

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars, plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 to update the appearance

/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars, plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover.

NASA says the Curiosity rover has uncovered signs of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars that may have supported tiny organisms for tens of millions of years.

The lake near the Martian equator existed about 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists say it was neither salty nor acidic, and contained nutrients — a perfect spot to support microbes.

The findings were published online Monday in the journal Science and presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

Curiosity touched down near the Mars equator last year. Now that the $2.5 billion mission has accomplished a key goal — finding a habitable environment — the rover will look for organic compounds that are fundamental to all living things.

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