Mars science lab 'Curiosity' to launch 'extraterrestrial real-estate appraisal'
After a decade of "following the water," planetary scientists want to see if water co-existed with other critical environmental conditions that could have allowed simple forms of life to emerge.
We're not quite ready to hunt for life itself yet, and the MSL rover isn't designed to do so, say researchers taking part in the $2.5-billion mission to the red planet.
But after a decade of "following the water" – a necessary ingredient for life as researchers currently understand it – planetary scientists are moving to take the next critical step: see if water co-existed with other critical environmental conditions that could have allowed simple forms of life to emerge.
Organisms on Earth take the forms they do because they are adapted to their environments, MSL researchers explain. If humans eventually hunt for evidence of life itself on the Red Planet, or anywhere else, for that matter, knowing something about the environment organisms inhabit will yield clues about what the organisms were or are like.
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