It’s official: Curiosity, NASA’s car-sized rover created to tread on Mars’ Gale Crater, uncovered proof in the form of organic molecules and a “mysterious” methane that lead us to think that the Red Planet could have been lived in by ancient life.
Today, Mars’ surface readily breaks down organics making it difficult to detect but did it once have the right conditions to be inhabited?
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We took two steps forward in the search for life on Mars! Our Curiosity Mars rover detected “tough” organic molecules in 3-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface of Mars AND found seasonal variations in methane levels in the atmosphere. These two discoveries increase the chances that the record of habitability and potential life has been preserved on the Red Planet and are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface. Seen here is a view from the "Kimberley" formation on Mars taken by the Curiosity rover. The colors are adjusted so that rocks look approximately as they would if they were on Earth, to help geologists interpret the rocks. This "white balancing" to adjust for the lighting on Mars overly compensates for the absence of blue on Mars, making the sky appear light blue and sometimes giving dark, black rocks a blue cast. Taken by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Curiosity, this view is from the 580th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The rover landed on the Red Planet in August 2012 and has traveled more than 11.84 miles (19.06 kilometers) in that time. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS #nasa #space #mars #redplanet #curiosity #rover #spacecraft #mountsharp #planet #solarsystem #life #search #science #rocks #explore #sol #day #picoftheday #pictureoftheday
“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”
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Organic materials contain carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and other elements which are associated with our existence but before you start packing your bags and planning an escape trip to outer space, we have to tell you – this discovery does not necessarily mean we’ll be fulfilling our childhood dreams of visiting E.T. some time soon (maybe that’s just me!) but these carbon-based molecule findings are essential to the presence of life as we know it.
“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”