River system 'may have supported life on Mars'

Scientists working on the Mars rover mission believe they have found evidence of conditions that could have supported life on the Red Planet.

An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/MSSS

The believe the Yellowknife Bay area, which the rover is currently exploring, was once a river system or lake bed that could have supported living microbes.

Analysis of rock samples indicate that the formerly wet environment was not overly acidic, salty or "oxidising" - conditions necessary for supporting life.

Powdered rock from the Mars rover's drill - the first sample of its kind Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

It is backed up by evidence gathered from the rover's first drilling sample which identified sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon - some of the key chemical ingredients for life.

The hole created by the Mars rover's first sample drilling Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said: "A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment.

"From what we know now, the answer is yes," he added.