NASA‘s Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity landed on Mars on January 25, 2004. Since then it has discovered many new and unknown facts of Mars at different times. However, recently the rover has found evidence of ‘drinkable’ water on the planet. This is the first time that evidence of such neutral or non-acidic chemistry water has been found on the planet.
Opportunity took three years to reach the rim of a large impact basin called Endeavour Crater, where it examined, among other objects, a small rock called Esperance. It took seven tries before Opportunity got itself positioned properly to scratch the rock’s surface and see what lies beneath. Although Opportunity does not have a drill or on-board chemistry lab like Curiosity, it used basic mineralogy to determine the once possible presence of ‘drinkable’ water on the planet. The rover started examining a Martian rock which has clays formed in non-acidic water.
After analyzing the data, NASA scientists found that there wasn’t water anymore, the minerals left behind bear an aluminum-rich chemical signature that suggests they were formed through interaction with neutral-pH water.
Opportunity’s lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University said, “This is water you can drink. This is the most powerful evidence for neutral (non-acidic) chemistry water that has been found by Opportunity. Such observations could help scientists map out Mars’ transition from a relatively warm and wet world long ago to the cold and dry planet we know today.”