PASADENA -- The Mars rover Curiosity has found evidence that a stream running about three feet per second once flowed in the area it is currently exploring on the Red Planet, a UC-Berkeley scientist announced at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Thursday.
Curiosity took photos of rock outcroppings, providing the first solid evidence that Mars had a watery environment billions of years ago that may have supported life.
"From the size of gravel it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about three feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of UC Berkeley. "Plenty of papers have been written about channels on Mars with many different hypotheses about the flows in them. This is the first time we're actually seeing water-transported gravel on Mars. This is a transition from speculation about the size of streambed material to direct observation of it."
The gravel scientists examined is part of two slabs of rock that have been tilted upward by water flow. Those two places have been named "Hottah" and "Link."
Though the streambed could hold clues of ancient organic materials, scientists are still focused on Mount Sharp, in the middle of Gale Crater, as their best chance to find evidence of life.
"A long-flowing stream can be a habitable environment," Curiosity project scientist John Grotzinger said. "It is not our top choice as an environment