NASA’s Curiosity rover finds organic material and more on Mars

NASA    
     MARS ROVER The vehicle has spent 2,000 days on the Red Planet

In 2015, however, Curiosity made the first tentative detection of organic molecules on Mars, finding evidence of chlorine-contaminated carbon compounds in soil samples heated to more than 800 degrees Celsius in SAM.

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.

However, there are several other ways the molecules could have ended up on the lake bed.

"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 the time", wrote Utrecht University astrobiologist Inge Loes ten Kate of the Netherlands.

The Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012 with a detective's mission: to find clues about whether or not life could exist on the Red Planet.

Curiosity has been drilling since 2013. And now they've added a catalogue of organic molecules to that list. The scientists took questions from the public as they revealed increasingly more information about Curiosity's latest developments. The Viking Project was the first USA mission to safely land spacecraft on the Martian surface, as well as send back images.

"And maybe we can find something better preserved than that, that has signatures of life in it", she told AFP.

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

As for the "mysterious methane", NASA scientists say that the gas goes through seasonal variations in the atmosphere over the course of three Mars years - or every six Earth years.

Arjun Tendulkar, Sachin Tendulkar's son, breaks into India Under-19 squad
Arjun was also part of the senior team's net sessions, watched by India head coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharat Arun. Mangwani (MHCA), Arjun Tendulkar (MCA), Nehal Wadhera (PCA), Akash Pande (GCA), Mohit Jangra (UPCA), Pawan Shah (MHCA).

And although hopes were high that the two landers and their instruments would detect signs of life or organic compounds in samples taken from the surface, that didn't happen. Some of our planet's earliest organisms may have been methanogens - microbes that eat organic molecules and exhale methane gas.

Eigenbrode said that regardless where the organic material came from, its existence means that any microbial life found on Mars would have had a food source. They could even have been transported from elsewhere in the solar system.

Three different types of organic molecules were discovered when the rover dug just 5 cm into roughly 3.5 billion-year-old mudstone, a fine-grained sedimentary rock, at Gale crater, apparently the site of a large lake when ancient Mars was warmer and wetter than the desolate planet it is today. "Short of taking a picture of a fossil in a rock on Mars, [finding life there] is extremely hard to do scientifically", says Chris Webster, a chemist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and lead author of the methane study.

It's impossible to say whether ancient life explains the Martian organics, however.

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

"Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules", Eigenbrode said in the release.

Intriguingly, the organics Dr. Eigenbrode and her colleagues detected looked like they were pieces that came from more complex material.

Potential contaminants were analyzed and accounted for, so the results are the most conclusive yet.

"The incredible consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars".

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