MOUNTAIN VIEW (KCBS) – Data being sent back by the Curiosity rover on Mars shows there was likely water on the red planet for thousands, if not millions of years.

That observation was the highlight of a news conference held by NASA at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View on Thursday. It was held to mark Curiosity’s 50 day milestone in its two year sojourn on Mars.

“This is a rock that was formed in the presence of water. And we can characterize that water as being a vigorous flow on the surface of Mars,” said John Grotzinger, project scientist for the mission. “We’re really excited about this because this is one of the reasons we were interested in coming to this landing site.”

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:

NASA Ames scientist Chris McKay said pictures sent by Curiosity show the same dirt patterns that are caused by flash floods, similar to ones in the Mojave Desert.

“Imagine driving down a road in the Mojave Desert and there’s rocks on the road. They’ve been carried there by vigorous flash floods flowing across the surface,” said McKay. “That’s obviously what happened on Mars. Not recently, but in the past. So if you want to see the same kind of terrain that we’re driving on Mars, go to the Mojave Desert.”

Photos: Mars Curiosity Rover Landing

The Curiosity rover is currently on the way to an area known as Glenelg, where three different terrain come together. The collection of material from a yet-to-be selected site is expected to take two to three weeks to complete.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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