Research Article

A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars

Science  09 Dec 2013:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1242777

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Abstract

The Curiosity rover discovered fine-grained sedimentary rocks, which are inferred to represent an ancient lake and preserve evidence of an environment that would have been suited to support a Martian biosphere founded on chemolithoautotrophy. This aqueous environment was characterized by neutral pH, low salinity, and variable redox states of both iron and sulfur species. C, H, O, S, N, and P were measured directly as key biogenic elements, and by inference P is assumed to have been available. The environment likely had a minimum duration of hundreds to tens of thousands of years. These results highlight the biological viability of fluvial-lacustrine environments in the post-Noachian history of Mars.

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