NASA rover data shows Mars had the ingredients needed for life

08 June, 2018, 04:15 | Author: Kelly Sanders

The discoveries were found using the US space agency's Curiosity Mars Rover, which has been studying the Red Planet's surface since it first landed in 2012.

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA's Mars 2020 rover and ESA's (European Space Agency's) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface.

However, the environment in which the mudstones were deposited - a 3.5-billion-year-old lake bed - would have been altered in other ways as the sediments settled and compressed to become rock.

Scientists agree more powerful spacecraft - and, ideally, rocks returned to Earth from Mars - are needed to prove whether tiny organisms like bacteria ever existed on the red planet. In two separate studies on data collected by the Mars rover over the last few years, scientists have identified an abundant source of organic matter in the ancient soil, and traced some of the planet's atmospheric methane to its roots.

The methane could simply be the product of basic geological processes, but it's possible the gas has origins in biological sources.

In 2013, it confirmed organic compounds in rocks in a deep part of the crater called Yellowknife Bay, said Jennifer Eigenbrode, who led the organic molecule study published in Science. This is the most compelling evidence yet that this dry planet once held lakes filled with carbon-based compounds capable of sustaining life. Specifically, NASA says that lower levels of methane were found to decrease in the winter and peak in the summer on an annual basis.

"Not only have we got this wonderful repeatability, but the seasonal cycle changes by a factor of three". This is all written down: the Union Aerospace Corporation went digging around Mars-quite possibly lured in by the discovery of ancient organic material-one thing led to another, and they opened a portal to Hell.

"We have greatly expanded our search for organic compounds, which is fundamental in the search for life", said Paul Mahaffy, study author and director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, said that these discoveries should be viewed as Mars "telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life".

"We've been able to rule out some of the more simple or accepted ideas of Mars's methane", Dr Webster said.

Webster theorizes the methane created either now or long ago is seeping from deep underground reservoirs up through cracks and fissures in the crust.

NASA's InSight Lander, launched on May 5, will land on Mars on November 26. Close up, the veins have the appearance and chemistry of material that has been produced by reaction of water with the rocks, at a time when water was stable at the surface for extended periods of time. The key samples in the latest findings came from a spot 6.4 kilometres away.

"You're seeing a factor of three change in the methane in the atmosphere of Mars".

Over the years, scientists have amassed a number of clues that can help answer the question of Mars' habitability, including evidence of liquid water.


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