The announcement follows studies on the latest samples taken by the Curiosity rover.
The space rover is a 4WD droid exploring the planet remotely and taking samples of the surface for any sign of alien life.
The rover examined a mudstone outcrop area called “Pahrump Hills” on lower Mount Sharp, in 2014 and 2015.
In a paper published recently in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, scientists in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston report on the first four samples collected from the lower layers of Mount Sharp.
Elizabeth Rampe, the first author of the study and a NASA exploration mission scientist at Johnson, said: “We went to Gale Crater to investigate these lower layers of Mount Sharp that have these minerals that precipitated from water and suggest different environments.
“These layers were deposited about 3.5 billion years ago, coinciding with a time on Earth when life was beginning to take hold.
“We think early Mars may have been similar to early Earth, and so these environments might have been habitable.”
Curiosity landed near Mount Sharp in Gale Crater in August 2012 and reached the base of the mountain in 2014.
yers of rocks at the base of Mount Sharp accumulated as sediment within ancient lakes around 3.5 billion years ago.
Orbital infrared spectroscopy had shown that the mountain’s lowermost layers have variations in minerals that suggest changes in the area have occurred.
The minerals found in the four samples drilled near the base of Mount Sharp suggest several different environments were present in ancient Gale Crater.
There is evidence for waters with different pH and variably oxidising conditions. The minerals also show that there were multiple source regions for the rocks in “Pahrump Hills” and “Marias Pass”.
The paper primarily reports on three samples from the Pahrump Hills region. This is an outcrop at the base of Mount Sharp that contains sedimentary rocks scientists believe formed in the presence of water.
A NASA spokesman said: “Studying such rock layers can yield information about Mars’ past habitability, and determining minerals found in the layers of sedimentary rock yields much data about the environment in which they formed. “Data collected at Mount Sharp with the Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument on Curiosity showed a wide diversity of minerals.”