NASA scientists say tests on a Mars rock show the planet could have supported primitive life.
NASA scientists said at a briefing at NASA's Washington headquarters on Tuesday that an analysis of a Mars rock sample from the Curiosity rover showed minerals needed to produce and support life, including hydrogen, carbon and oxygen.
"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Programme. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."
The six-wheeled robot is the most sophisticated sent to another planet. It has 10 scientific instruments on board.
The rock sample was drilled from a sedimentary bedrock sample and found to contain clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals.
John Grotzinger, a Curiosity project scientist from the California Institute of Technology, said based on the analysis of those chemicals, researchers were able to determine that the water that helped form the rocks were of a relatively neutral pH.
"We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life, that probably if this water was around and you had been there, you would have been able to drink it," he said.