A Japanese research team has found that water believed to have existed on Mars 3.5 billion years ago contained salt and minerals, providing conditions suited to life.

The team has said it succeeded in restoring the conditions for water that is believed to have existed on Gale Crater, near the equator, 3.5 billion years ago, by using data on sediments collected by the U.S. Mars probe Curiosity.

To analyze the data, the team, including Kanazawa University associate professor Keisuke Fukushi and Tokyo Institute of Technology professor Yasuhito Sekine, estimated water content by way of a technique used in research into the geological disposal of nuclear waste.

The analysis found that the water on Mars had concentrations of salt content that were about a third the level of seawater on Earth.

The water was “as salty as miso soup and ramen noodle soup,” Sekine said, adding that the water was also rich in minerals such as magnesium.

The team believes that the concentration of salt rose to those levels as the water evaporated — over a period of more than 1 million years — after flowing into the crater.

The technique will pave the way for research into whether an environment suited to life existed in a wide area on Mars, and when and how such an environment was lost, Fukushi said.

The team’s study was published in Friday’s edition of the British journal Nature Communications.

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