09/02/2011 04:34 pm ET | Updated Nov 02, 2011

Mars Rover Discovers Rock With Zinc, NASA Overjoyed

Giddiness and excitement swept over NASA scientists Thursday after a small rover discovered a rock on Mars that could suggest life on the red planet, reports The New York Times.

Opportunity, NASA's small exploratory rover treaded over Mars' 13.6 mile wide crater called Endeavor in early August, reports the Telegraph.

Mission scientists have described the rock as "full of zinc and bromine, elements that, at least for rocks on Earth, would be suggestive of geology formed with heat and water," reports The Age. Zinc is often found in rocks that have been exposed to water.

Though the rover has roamed Mars' terrain on and off since 2004, never has it come across such samples of this kind.

"The excitement level within the engineering and science teams is way up," rover scientist Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri told The New Scientist.

But Opportunity isn't exactly in tip top shape. According to The New York Times, the golf cart sized rover has driven 20 miles even though it was designed to travel just two thirds of a mile and has a stuck robotic arm.

The discovery comes just months after NASA said goodbye to Spirit, Opportunity's identical rover counterpart. Spirit went silent after a sand trap last year.

Opportunity and Spirit already found evidence of liquid water that suggests life might have been possible on ancient Mars, but that water was highly acidic.

The lone rover will soon be getting company. NASA is set to launch Curiosity, a mobile laboratory in November, which won't arrive on Mars until summer 2012.


Correction: This article previously stated Curiosity would land on Endeavor in summer 2012. Instead, Curiosity will arrive on Mars, not Endeavor, in Summer 2012. This has now been updated to reflect that correction.