Researchers at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have focused on structures deep within a 30-pound martian meteorite known as Yamato 000593, NASA reported Thursday.
Structures and compositional features within the Yamato meteorite suggest biological processes might have been at work on Mars hundreds of millions of years ago, they said.
"While robotic missions to Mars continue to shed light on the planet's history, the only samples from Mars available for study on Earth are martian meteorites," lead study author Lauren White at JPL said. "On Earth, we can utilize multiple analytical techniques to take a more in-depth look into meteorites and shed light on the history of Mars."
Such analysis of the Yamato example suggests a presence of water at some point before the meteorite was blasted from the martian surface by a cosmic impact and made its way to Earth, the researchers said.
"The unique features displayed within the martian meteorite Yamato 000593 are evidence of aqueous alterations as seen in the clay minerals and the presence of carbonaceous matter associated with the clay phases which show that Mars has been a very active body in its past," Houston researcher Everett Gibson said. "The planet is revealing the presence of an active water reservoir that may also have a significant carbon component."