NASA's Curiosity rover discovers organic matter on Mars

08 June, 2018, 07:18 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Curiosity tests a new way to drill on Mars

The samples were drilled from the base of Mount Sharp, inside a basin called Gale Crater.

And that did the trick. Both studies resulting from the mission were published online today in the journal Science.

Is this the discovery of Martians?

There is a silver lining: as we mention above and NASA was quick to point out, "while commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life", which is encouraging.

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

"Even nowadays on Earth, we see a large influx of extraterrestrial [organic] material in the form of interplanetary dust and meteorites", ten Kate said.

Mars's Gale Crater, where Curiosity has been trolling around for the past six years, is a particularly interesting place to look for those molecules.

A view of Ophir Chasma on the northern portion of the vast Mars canyon system, Vallles Marineris, taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover snaps a self-portrait at a site called Vera Rubin Ridge on the Martian surface in February 2018 in this image obtained on June 7, 2018. The innumerable technological advances which space explorations have given us? And if life does exist elsewhere, it may be very different or even form differently from how we understand life on Earth. "It's on the table with all the other ones", Dr. Eigenbrode said. "Organic matter" in this context doesn't mean anything we'd recognize from our lives on Earth.

"There's a new mission in the planning where they'll be able to drill much deeper than the Curiosity rover can", Freeman says. "It tells us that this ancient environment on Mars could have supported life", Eigenbrode said. Finding organics is critical.

In four locations, including the spot nicknamed Mojave (pictured here), the Curiosity rover discovered thiophenes (molecules that include a ring of carbon and sulphur atoms) and other substances that on Earth can be linked to biological activity.

NASA has been searching for confirmation of organic molecules on Mars since the 1970s when it sent the Viking landers to the planet. 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. But scientists revealed tantalizing hints about present-day Mars today, too. The rover has also detected methane in the Martian atmosphere.

SAM measured small organic molecules that came off the mudstone sample - fragments of larger organic molecules that don't vaporize easily.

However, so far, tests were unable to determine how the organic compounds were formed.

NASA's Curiosity rover has previously found organic matter on Mars. Then the scientists sifted through the results to figure out what might be genuine Martian organics.

This latest discovery of organics does more than open the door for more study of organic matter on Mars.

For the first time, scientists say they have clear evidence that the chemical building blocks of life exist on Mars. This new discovery builds on the inventory of molecules detected in the ancient lake sediments on Mars and helps explains why they were preserved.

The next stage might not be just about past life, Pontefract says. "I think we're moving toward extant [the opposite of extinct] life detection again".

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