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Life on Mars? New Data Reveal Places to Search
Data freshly gathered by the Mars Express mission and analyzed by a team of scientists, including Brown University professor John Mustard, offer new insight into the mineral composition of Mars. New research, published online by the journal Science, points out promising places to search for evidence of past life.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Mars Express, Europe’s first mission to the Red Planet, has generated a slew of new data about the mineral composition of the planet’s dry, dramatic surface. In six new papers published online by the journal Science, an international team reveals clues about the planet’s past hidden in the rock.
Brown University geoscientist John Mustard co-authored three of the Mars papers, currently published on the Science Express Web site. Mustard said this research shows areas that contain water or may have otherwise been amenable to life forms millions of years ago.
“If you want to resolve the big question about life on Mars, you want to go to the right places and get samples,” Mustard, associate professor of geological sciences, said. “The new research tells us where some of those places may be.”
Mustard is part of a French-led team studying data from OMEGA, a spectrometer aboard Mars Express that uses visible and infrared light to map the surface composition of the planet.
Using the OMEGA data:
Based on these findings, Mustard said Syrtis Major, Valles Marineris and Terra Meridiani would all be strong candidates for rock and soil sampling for future Mars missions.
Mustard has designed a next-generation spectrometer that will be on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which NASA plans to launch in August.
The European Space Agency and NASA funded the Science Express work.
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