NASA Just Revealed Conclusive Evidence of Organic Compounds on Mars

Greg Lawrence
June 8, 2018

NASA's Curiosity rover landed inside Mars's 96-mile-wide Gale Crater on August 6, 2012, and since then it has been probing the Red Planet's geology, climate and the question of whether or not it has ever supported microbial life. But they aren't proof of life on Mars, or even necessarily strong evidence that there's anything living, or anything that used to be alive, out there.

"Organic molecules serve as the building blocks of life while most of the methane in Earth's atmospheric comes from animal and plant life, scientists explained". "But it doesn't tell us that life was there".

"Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life", Eigenbrode continued, "organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes". In addition to the organic molecules, NASA also identified seasonal variations in the amount of methane in Mars' atmosphere. Curiosity reports that methane levels on Mars go up and down in a predictable cycle. So like the organic molecules, it's not an unambiguous biosignature. Methane, found on Mars before in plumes or patches, has never been detected in instances that scientists had been able to see repeatedly.

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.

Maybe even billions of years - the Gale crater, named after Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale, is up to 3.8 billion years old, and may have once held a lake. Combined with high-energy ultraviolet light and cosmic rays streaming in from space, perchlorates would destroy any organic material on the surface, leaving little to be seen by carbon-seeking landers and rovers.

The Curiosity rover, which has travelled 19.3 km since it landed in the Gale crater almost six years ago, detected a number of organic molecules in pieces of Martian mudstone it drilled from the lake bed and heated in its oven. Gale Crater's rim is visible on the horizon. 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.

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NASA earlier this week announced that the Curiosity rover had started analysing drilled samples on Mars in one of its onboard labs for the first time in more than a year.

"This is all possible because of Curiosity's longevity". Instead, SAM detected fragments of much larger molecules that had been broken up during the high-temperature heating experiment.

It will also get some upgraded Curiosity equipment in the form of new hardware, color cameras, a zoom lens and a laser that can reportedly vaporize rocks and soil.

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

Webster theorizes the methane created either now or long ago is seeping from deep underground reservoirs up through cracks and fissures in the crust.

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft effectively ruled out cosmic origins following its analysis of the dust left after a close encounter with the comet Siding Spring in 2014. "The first one would be life, which we don't know about". The crystals may have obtained methane from ancient forms of life.

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