NASA's lonely Mars rover has successfully retrieved its first batch of soil from a "clay bearing unit" near Mars' Mount Sharp region. Curiosity blasted off towards the planet in November 2011. Curiosity retrieved samples of bedrock material from a rock dubbed Aberlady on Sunday, April 6. The rover then
Water is one of the most basic building blocks of life on the planet parts of the cosmos
Scientists have long suspected Mars once hosted a lush and wet atmosphere
Today, however, the planet is a harsh and inhospitable desert with a paper thin atmosphere blasted by intense solar radiation.
The only signs of water present on Mars have been found in the form of ice caps around the freezing south pole.
R Life on Mars: NASA Curiosity rover drilling clay ”
Life on Mars: Curiosity is drilling out samples of clay from Martian bedrock [19459012NASA'sunderstandingofMars'sancientpast
Jim Erickson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said: "Curiosity has been on the road for nearly seven years."
"Finally drilling at the clay bearing unit is a major milestone in our journey up Mount Sharp."
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According to NASA, the remote rover's drill "chewed easily" through the Martian rock, suggesting the bedrock was much softer than expected.  The space agen cy said in a statement: "It was so soft, in fact, that the drill did not need its percussive technique, which is helpful for snagging samples from harder rock."
However, it is unlikely the drilling mission will provide any major breakthrough in the hunt for liquid water.
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Life on Mars: Clay samples could be proof of ancient water could boost hopes of ancient life
Finally drilling at the clay bearing unit is a major milestone
NASA said Curiosity has so far encountered clay minerals and mudstones at every step of its journey through Mars.
These rocks are believed to have been formed in ancient lakebeds by settling river sediments some 3.5 billion years ago.
The space agency said: "As with water elsewhere on Mars, the lakes eventually dried up."
And Ashwin Vasavada, a JPL Curiosity scientist said: "Each layer of this mountain is a puzzle piece.
"What's the difference between water and water?"
potential to find life on Mars?
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Life on Mars: The Martian rock
And the scientists will prove the same conditions existed on Mars, the single, single-celled, life-tested evolution of Mars on Mars. 19659003] NASA said: "Whether the w ater is boiling hot or frozen, some sort of creature seems to thrive in it. Is it the same on other planets?
"If water once flowed on Mars, did life once thrive there too?" Or, there is still water on Mars, only it has gone underground.
"Could there be tiny life forms-like bacteria-on Mars even now?"