Curiosity Rover Uncovers Long-Sought Organic Materials on Martian Surface

Curiosity Rover Uncovers Long-Sought Organic Materials on Martian Surface

"Curiosity has shown that Gale Crater was habitable around 3.5 billion years ago, with conditions comparable to those on the early Earth, where life evolved around that time". This latest discovery adds evidence that Mars may have been capable of supporting life in its ancient past, though there's still no evidence that life had actually existed on the Red Planet. Another noticed the methane levels around Curiosity varied by the season.

The rover was able to heat the samples to between 932 and 1508 degrees Fahrenheit and study the organic molecules released through gas analysis.

NASA is to announce new findings from Curiosity in a conference streamed live worldwide on Thursday.

"With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington.

Regardless, the detection is a technical achievement, said Williford, because it demonstrates that organic molecules can persist near Mars's surface for billions of years.

The main objective of the Curiosity rover is to discover whether or not the planet ever had an environment able to support small life forms known as microbes. "And it makes us more confident that if biomarkers" - or direct evidence of biologic activity - "are there, we might find them". On Mars, where we only have a few molecules from a remote probe, this stuff is light years away from being conclusive.

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That Mars possesses organic molecules is not surprising. The term "organic" is ambiguous - we often take it to mean "life-related" but it doesn't have to mean that. "The question of whether life might have originated or existed on Mars is a lot more opportune now that we know that organic molecules were present on its surface at that time". NASA also announced it had found signs of "seasonal methane" in the Mars atmosphere.

But National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists emphasised there could be nonbiological explanations for both discoveries made by the Curiosity rover at a site called Gale crater. They can come from living and nonliving sources, but because many are necessary for and produced by life on Earth, they're considered possible biosignatures - signs of the presence of life. All we can say from the data is that there is complex organic matter similar to what is found in many equivalent aged rocks on the Earth. What the study has done, though, is to propel the search for life on Mars higher up the list of worldwide space exploration priorities - giving space agencies ammunition to argue for a coordinated programme of missions to explore the Red Planet.

Another mission, Mars InSight, is heading to Mars right now to study the geological life of the planet. I'll tell you what comes from Mars: Hell.

Furthermore, Pontefract says, ExoMars and NASA's Mars 2020 mission will use tools that take a different approach to analyze organics. Yet when NASA's twin Viking probes landed on Mars in 1976, their studies suggested something startling: Martian soil, it seemed, contained less carbon than lifeless lunar rocks.

"The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space", said Jen Eigenbrode, a study author and research scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. The molecules could have been deposited on Mars by meteorites or formed in the lake through non-biological means.

But the scientists can not say what the larger molecules were or how they formed.

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