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Mars Rover finds evidence of ancient lake in crater

A photograph taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the layers of clay and carbonate minerals in the crater Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA's Curiosity Rover has uncovered evidence of what may have once been a lake at the bottom of a crater on Mars.

The Rover's spectrometer picked up traces of clay and carbonate minerals in the layered, flat rocks at the bottom of the crater, suggesting that there was once water there.

Scientists believe that groundwater may have collected in the McLaughlin Crater, which is almost 60 miles in diameter and 1.4 miles deep.

The new evidence supports the hypothesis that Mars may once have had a wet underground environment which could have supported life.


NASA aims to launch Mars rover twin in 2020

NASA plans to follow-up its Mars rover Curiosity mission with a duplicate rover that could collect and store samples for return to Earth, the agency's lead scientist have said.

Mars rover Curiosity is on a two-year mission of the red planet Credit: NASA

The new rover will use spare parts and engineering models developed for Curiosity, which is four months into a planned $2.5 billion, two-year mission on Mars to look for habitats that could have supported microbial life.

Replicating the rover's chassis, sky-crane landing system and other gear will enable NASA to cut the cost of the new mission to about $1.5 billion.

Budget shortfalls forced NASA to pull out of a series of joint missions with Europe, designed to return rock and soil samples from Mars in the 2020s.

Europe instead will partner with Russia for the launch vehicle and other equipment that was to have been provided by NASA.

Scientists at Astrium in Stevenage have also been testing their own Mars rover for the next Mars mission.

Called 'Bruno', the €1bn European ExoMars programme is due to launch in 2018.

Mars Rover Curiosity ready for landing