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Rover finds evidence that Mars could have supported life

WASHINGTON — Several billion years ago, Mars may well have been a pleasant place for tiny microbes to live, with plenty of water as well as minerals that could have served as food, NASA scientists said Tuesday at a news conference on the latest findings from their Mars
rover.

But they have yet to find any signs that actual microbes did live in that oasis.

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‘‘A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,’’ said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. ‘‘From what we know now, the answer is yes.’’

In drilling into its first rock, the scientists said, the rover Curiosity — a self-contained science laboratory about the size of a Mini Cooper — sent back to Earth convincing evidence that the environs of Mars were once awash in water.

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