NASA's Curiosity rover discovers organic matter on Mars
NASA's Curiosity rover discovers organic matter on Mars
NASANASA news The Curiosity Rover made two new discoveries on Mars
08 June, 2018, 16:26
Methane is considered the simplest organic molecule. This is the most compelling evidence yet that this dry planet once held lakes filled with carbon-based compounds capable of sustaining life.
And that did the trick.
From everything we can tell of the chemistry and the minerals deposited in the Gale crater where Curiosity is stationed, "we think it was a habitable environment", Jennifer Eigenbrode from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center told Gizmodo.
"We don't know if that methane is ancient, we don't know if it's modern - it could be either", Webster said.
Is this the discovery of Martians?
Now, samples taken from two different drill sites on an ancient lakebed have yielded complex organic molecules that look strikingly similar to the goopy fossilized building blocks of oil and gas on Earth.
The search for organic molecules actually began on Mars in 1976 via Viking 1 and II, so the finding of them by Curiosity is an achievement a long time coming.
All of the outside sources I spoke with said it's important to be skeptical about claims of life, extinct or otherwise, on the Red Planet. "However, it did give us a lot of motivation to keep looking".
Over five years, Curiosity has used its Tunable Laser Spectrometer to measure methane in the atmosphere at the Gale crater.
A 2018 self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Vera Rubin Ridge, made up of a composite of photo from the rover. "And it makes us more confident that if biomarkers" - or direct evidence of biologic activity - "are there, we might find them". A likely candidate: "serpentinization", where water and minerals react, releasing methane. Are they from life?' Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said in the statement. And NASA didn't launch another mission to Mars for over a decade. "We didn't want to fund an incredibly expensive mission and come up short again". So what if scientists were able to drill 10 meters, 100 meters, 1,000 meters? Finding organics is critical.
What's more, organic doesn't necessarily mean biological.
"We can not rule out its creation from biological activity ..." But they could also be the result of abiotic chemical reactions on the surface of the planet. Regardless of how these molecules originated, they are a key sign of habitability. The rover, they announced, had spotted organic molecules in ancient Red Planet rocks and identified a seasonal cycle in the concentration of atmospheric methane, suggesting that the gas is leaking from underground reservoirs.
As with methane, there could well be non-biological explanations for the presence of carbon-containing molecules on Mars, such as geologic processes or impacts by asteroids, comet, meteors and interplanetary dust. So like the organic molecules, it's not an unambiguous biosignature.
However, so far, tests were unable to determine how the organic compounds were formed. It's possible, ten Kate said, that this could happen on Mars. The joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars mission could be the one to find it.
NASA will use both these discoveries to inform the design of its upcoming Mars 2020 rover.
"The results convincingly show the long-awaited detection of organic compounds on Mars". It also signals the next step in our astrobiological investigation of Mars.
Clearly, there are more questions about Mars that need answering.
Now, the rover has seemingly made a new discovery which will be revealed this Thursday, according to the space agency.
The next stage might not be just about past life, Pontefract says.
"I'm equally as fascinated by the idea that life never got started on Mars in the first place".
Potential contaminants were analyzed and accounted for, so the results are the most conclusive yet.
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