NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity finds building blocks for life on red planet
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity finds building blocks for life on red planet
What has Nasa found on Mars? Alien life? Watch announcement livestream here
08 June, 2018, 09:28
Three-and-a-half billion years ago, the floor of Gale Crater on Mars was the muddy bottom of a large lake where sediment was deposited and, over time, turned into a fine-grained layered rock.
The vast majority of methane on Earth, at least, has a biological origin, so its presence on Mars is significant to the possibility of actually discovering life on Mars. Another noticed the methane levels around Curiosity varied by the season. The 2020 rover will include an advanced spectrometer to scan for organic molecules.
A 2018 self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge, made up of a composite of photo from the rover.
Some geologists devote their careers to seeking organic inclusions in Earth rocks, hoping to find ancient fossils of terrestrial life. "It tells us that this ancient environment on Mars could have supported life", Eigenbrode said.
The space agency has not divulged specific information about what it may have found, leaving many to wonder what intriguing details will be learned about the red planet. On Mars, where we only have a few molecules from a remote probe, this stuff is light years away from being conclusive.
One thing is for sure, though - whatever we can figure out about the chemistry of Mars, it's nearly certainly going to add precious details to our understanding of life in the cosmos.
Knowing that these molecules and compounds were present, then, gives new strength to the idea that life originated or existed on Mars and that more work by the Martian rovers can uncover the past. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.
On top of that, after keeping close tabs on methane levels in the Martian atmosphere, scientists have finally confirmed something weird is definitely going on, and they think they know what's causing it.
But National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists emphasized there could be nonbiological explanations for both discoveries made by the Curiosity rover at a site called Gale crater, leaving the issue of Martian life a tantalizing but unanswered question. But it has found the ingredients for life on Mars. Over the intervening years, fluid flowing thought it would have initiated chemical reactions that could have destroyed the organic matter - the material discovered may in fact be fragments from bigger molecules.
Researchers can not yet say whether their discovery stems from life or a more mundane geological process.
"We don't know, but these results tell us we are on the right track"'.
"You're seeing a factor of three change in the methane in the atmosphere of Mars".
Furthermore, Pontefract says, ExoMars and NASA's Mars 2020 mission will use tools that take a different approach to analyze organics. "There were signals there that were telling us that we had detected certain types of organic molecules", she says.
For the previous mud stone samples that had produced the chlorinated molecules, scientists had heated the powdered rock to 200 degrees Celsius.
On Mars, organic molecules could have been produced by some form of either present or past lifeforms.
It was to a great fanfare of publicity that researchers announced they had found evidence for past life on Mars in 1996. She pointed out that the surface of Mars is regularly exposed to space radiation, and that radiation and chemicals typically break down organic matter. One of their most hard tasks is to prove that the carbon they find is biogenic, and not produced through non-living, geological processes.
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