Preserved Organic Matter Found by Mars Curiosity Rover

Sunday, 10 Jun, 2018

Chairman Smith: "Congratulations to NASA on Curiosity's finding of incredible new evidence on Mars, including ancient organic molecules and atmospheric methane, that suggests the Red Planet may have supported ancient life". That leaves open the possibility that microorganisms once populated the red planet - and still might.

NASA's Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, which will travel with the agency's Mars 2020 rover, now scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet, is shown in this artist rendition from NASA/JPL in Pasadena, California, U.S. May 11, 2018.

The details about the research will also be published on Thursday in Science- which is one of the top scientific journals.

Curiosity mission scientists stationed near Mars' huge Gale Crater, were quick in finding that Gale hosted a potentially habitable system, complete with a lake, billions of years ago.

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.

While the discovery is one of the most tantalising searches yet to indicate that biological processes were (or maybe still are) responsible for these organic materials, it is not definitive proof of life on Mars. They've found organic carbon on the surface of Mars!

Updated on June 8 with news that Curiosity found the building blocks of life on Mars.

"The closer we look, the more we see that Mars is a complex, dynamic planet that - particularly early in its history - was more conducive to life than we might have previously imagined", said Williford, who was not involved in either study.

"There are three possible sources for the organic material", said Jennifer Eigenbrode, the astrobiologist of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

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

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years.

"When you work with something as insane as a rover on Mars, with the most complex instrument ever sent to space, it seems like we're doing what may have been perceived earlier as impossible", says lead author Jennifer Eigenbrode , a biogeochemist at NASA Goddard. "We are on the right track!" Ken Williford, an astrobiologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Washington Post "it makes us more confident that if biomarkers are there we might find them".

In addition to finding organic molecules in the rocks in Gale Crater, rover scientists are reporting another intriguing finding.