NASA’s Curiosity Rover Uncovers Building Blocks of Life on Mars

Ismael LynchJun 08, 2018

Here on Earth, we associate methane with life, but it's a mystery what could be causing it 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. The Viking Project was the first United States mission to safely land spacecraft on the Martian surface, as well as send back images.

Utrecht University scientist Inge Loes ten Kate asserted in an accompanying article that the findings proved that the dry lake bed found on Mars was habitable for life billions of years ago.

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.

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.

The source is still unclear, but it may be stored in the cold Martian subsurface in water-based crystals called clathrates, researchers said.

No, NASA hasn't discovered life on Mars yet-but a new result makes it seem like maybe, at some point in the planet's history, the conditions were ripe for some extraterrestrial beings.

NASA's Curiosity rover has found new science "results" on Mars and the agency will disclose the findings at a press conference that starts at 11.30 pm India time on 7 June. "I'm confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries".

In addition to finding organic molecules in the rocks in Gale Crater, rover scientists are reporting another intriguing finding. The organic molecules and volatiles, comparable to samples of sedimentary rock rich in organics on Earth, included thiopene, methylthiophenes methanethiol and dimethylsulfide. Some of these fragments contain sulfur, which could have helped preserve them in the same way sulfur is used to make vehicle tires more durable, according to Eigenbrode.

Three Mars years' worth of data shows that along with spikes in methane, levels swing between 0.24 and 0.65 parts per billion, peaking in the northern hemisphere summer. "Biological, geological and meteoritic sources are all possible", they wrote.

There is a seasonal variation to the methane that repeats, which means the methane is being released from the Martian surface or from reservoirs beneath the surface.

"Are there signs of life on Mars?" said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters.

A NASA rover has detected a bonanza of organic compounds on the surface of Mars and seasonal fluctuations of atmospheric methane in findings released on Thursday that mark some of the strongest evidence ever that Earth's neighbour may have harboured life. This mudstone gradually formed billions of years ago from silt that accumulated at the bottom of the ancient lake.

NASA also has another rover in the works with its Mars 2020 mission, which plans to drill cores and set them aside for a possible future pickup and return to Earth. This is also when life was evolving on our own planet. For example, scientists want to know if it has "Mars quakes".

The methane observations provide "one of the most compelling" cases for present-day life, she said.

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