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NASA's Curiosity Rover Detects Possible Mud Cracks on Mars -- Does the Red Planet Have Water?

Jan 19, 2017 11:39 AM EST

There may be an absence of proof that extraterrestrial life exists on Mars, but there are other scientifically correct data that makes the planet interesting. NASA's Mars Curiosity rover recently discovered mud cracks that could provide scientists with new information.

The cracks were found on slabs of rocks where the markings were visible. It could potentially mean there was drying mud.

"Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here," Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein said in a press release. Stein led an investigation called "Old Soaker" on the lower Mount Sharp where the Curiosity rover is.

It may not be concrete yet, but if they are indeed mud cracks or desiccation cracks, this would be the first of its kind to be discovered on Mars. Mud crack could also mean that there was once a wetter environment on the red planet. If proven true, mud cracking will add to the long list of evidence that suggests water once flowed on the red planet.

"Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don't look like fractures we've seen previously with Curiosity," Stein said in a statement. "It looks like what you'd see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked."

The cracks are believed to be 3 billion years old. The layers of remnants were buried that later on turned into rocks. Weather conditions and erosion is currently exposing the mud cracks embedded in the rocks. Scientists are now studying materials that could have filled the cracks.

Experts say there are two types of materials identified. This means mud cracking is only a part of the process. Fracturing and vein forming can also occur underground.

Another stunning discovery is the existence of "cross-bedding" pattern on the rocks. These are sandstones in between mudstones layer. Flowing water or windblown sediments during a drier period can cause the phenomena.

Based on Curiosity's data there are other areas where potential mud cracks might also be found. Scientists at NASA hopes to resume the rover's digging activity that has been stopped due to technical difficulties.

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