Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
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Organic Matter Found On Mars, Nasa Announces

Organic Matter Found On Mars, Nasa Announces

The organic compounds aren't even the first molecules of their kind found on Mars, though they are the oldest. If there was, then that life would have left behind organic molecules when it decayed. The rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument cooked some of the Martian dirt and unlocked some long-hidden carbon-containing molecules, some with sulfur and others with relatively complex structure.

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.

Almost six years into its survey of a site called Gale Crater on Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover has delivered what may be the biggest discovery yet in its quest for signs of habitability and life: Organic molecules are abundant in Red Planet rocks, and the simplest organic molecule, methane, seasonally blows through the thin Martian air. Both discoveries were made possible by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover and have been detailed in a pair of new studies. The 2020 rover will include an advanced spectrometer to scan for organic molecules. Sadly, most scientists dismissed this claim in the decade that followed - finding other explanations for the rock's formation.

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.

"We don't know, but these results tell us we are on the right track"'.

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

Curiosity also measured an unexpectedly large seasonal cycle in the low levels of atmospheric methane. Hell comes from Mars, NASA, and it's only been two years since we cleaned up the last incident of Mars Hell.

The discovery proves that while Mars is inhospitable today, it previously allowed for "liquid water" to pool, meaning a water lake inside Mars' Gale Crater could have once supported life, NASA said in an announcement on Tuesday.

Organic matter has been found on Mars in soil samples taken from 3 billion-year-old mudstone in the Gale crater by the Curiosity rover, NASA announced Thursday.

Leading contenders have included some sort of chemical reaction based on a rock called olivine, meteorites dropping organic materials into the atmosphere, or a release from a sub-surface reservoir close to the surface. They could even have been transported from elsewhere in the solar system. So like the organic molecules, it's not an unambiguous biosignature.

The facility is hosting 10 university teams Thursday for an exercise on extracting water from simulated Martian subsurface ice.

"These clathrates lock the methane inside a water-ice crystal structure and are incredibly stable for millions of years until environmental conditions change and suddenly they can release that gas", says Duffy.

Future testing of the carbon isotopes in the methane could make the picture clearer, but for now we can't get too carried away - although the new results are a massive step towards discovering even more.

"This is a significant breakthrough because it means there are organic materials preserved in some of the harshest environments on Mars", said lead author of one of two studies in Science, Jennifer Eigenbrode.

"I think part of the Mars community is frustrated with these incremental advances", she says, so there's a push to go look for life directly again.

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

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