Recent images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover have revealed a different landscape than the usual loose rocks and layered soils. These new images suggest that Mars had a warmer and wetter landscape approximately 3.7 billion years ago.
Images taken in the impacted Gale crater have revealed Earth-like soil profiles. These soils have cracked surfaces that are lined with sulfate, egg-shaped hollows and concentrations of sulfate, similar to the soils in the Antarctic dry valleys and Chile’s Atacama Desert.
Gregory Retallack, a geologist from the University of Oregon, published a paper in the journal Geology about his study of the mineral and chemical data collected by other researchers.
Although the ancient soils are comparable to Earth soils, Retallack states that it does not prove Mars had contained life. Instead, the discovery adds to a growing supply of evidence that Mars was more habitable than it is today.
Curiosity is now exploring geologically younger layers within the Gale crater, where the soils appear to be contributory to life.
Retallack said that in order to record the older life and soils on Mars, explorations of older and more clayey terrains will be needed.