The revelation this week that the part of Mars being explored by the rover Opportunity was soaking wet in the past is a “significant step forward in our understanding of solar system evolution and the fact that the red planet may have once been blue,” said Clive Neal, an associate professor of civil engineering and geological sciences at the University of Notre Dame. “Stabilization of liquid water on Mars requires a thicker, warmer atmosphereconditions suitable for developing life as we know it.”p. "Clues of “life” may be direct (preservation of fossils) or indirect (chemical signatures). We now need to study similar deposits here on Earth with an intensity heretofore unseen. We at Notre Dame are planning to do this."
Neal’s research uses petrology and geochemistry to investigate the environment from planetary differentiation to heavy metal pollution. He is studying Martian meteorites in an effort to understand the evolution of the planet.