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NASA discovers organic matter on Mars

08 June 2018

NASA's Curiosity rover has discovered chemicals the agency considers to be the "building blocks" of basic life forms in soil found on Mars, the aerospace agency announced Thursday. More powerful spacecraft are needed to prove whether life ever existed on Mars.

The latest data shows huge swings in the level of methane in the atmosphere as the seasons change, and new types of organic molecules capable of preserving life just beneath its surface. Organic matter can be one of several things: a record detailing ancient life, a food source for life or something that exists in the place of life.

NASA is remaining characteristically tight-lipped, but has confirmed the announcement will feature "new science results from NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover".

"With this new data, we again can not rule out microbial activity as a potential source", Webster said.

Nasa is now revealing the latest findings of its Curiosity Rover at a press conference.

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"The chances of being able to find signs of ancient life with future missions, if life ever was present, just went up", said Curiosity's project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The methane observations provide "one of the most compelling" cases for present-day life, she said.

These are exciting findings, published as twin papers in the journal Science today (June 7).

NASA now operates three orbiters and two surface rovers at Mars with a new lander - InSight - on the way. But it is the preservation of the material that is important - if there is this much organic matter preserved close to the surface, then there should be even better protected material at greater depths. "And what it does, it gives us a key to unlocking the mysteries associated with Mars methane because now we have something to test our models and our understanding against".

Mate, Mars is telling you to leave well enough alone before you open another portal to Hell. Eigenbrode clarified, however, that the matter was not evidence of life as non-biological entities can create organic molecules.

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Referring to the findings regarding organic compounds and methane, Webster said, "They hint at an earlier time on Mars when water was present and the existence of primitive life forms was possible".

Some of the new science instruments included on the next Mars rover include an X-ray spectrometer, ultraviolet laser, excited rings of carbon atoms, and a ground-penetrating radar that will allow the space agency to look under the surface of Mars up to 30 feet deep depending on terrain.

A second analysis by SAM found evidence of larger organic compounds five centimeters (two inches) below the surface of Mars at the site of a lake that dried up billions of years ago.

The samples were drilled from the base of Mount Sharp, inside a basin called Gale Crater that is believed to have held an ancient Martian lake.

Over the years, scientists have amassed a number of clues that can help answer the question of Mars' habitability, including evidence of liquid water.

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Contained below the 3.5 billion-year-old mudstone was a fine-grained sedimentary rock. She said the discoveries break down some of the strongest arguments put forward by life-on-Mars skeptics, herself included. Its two-year mission will explore Mars to see if it's "geologically alive", or active below the surface. This is also when life was evolving on our own planet.