NASA officials announce Mars Curiosity rover findings

08 Juin, 2018, 07:15 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • NASA    
     MARS ROVER The vehicle has spent 2,000 days on the Red Planet

The new evidence comes from a pair of rocks.

Data from the plucky rover Curiosity and the Trace Gas Orbiter high above the planet have spotted it in puffs, suggesting a dynamic process is churning it out parts per billion.

But National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists emphasized there could be nonbiological explanations for both discoveries made by the Curiosity rover at a site called Gale crater, leaving the issue of Martian life a tantalizing but unanswered question.

But the SAM results were hard to interpret - there were a lot of extraneous signals that didn't make any sense.

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

"If we weren't sure, we removed it", Dr. Eigenbrode said. Organic entails "containing carbon", as this NASA video says, but organic molecules can have biological or non-biological origins.

I asked everyone I spoke with if they thought there was life on Mars, and the consensus was maybe, maybe not. The rover spotted the chemical signature in samples take from sedimentary rocks the formed some 3 billion years ago. 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.

That's why one of the scientists they quote says, "I suspect it's geological".

Some sort of biology can't be ruled out, of course, but any kind of complex organic chemistry would still tell us something about how life arose on Earth.

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Organic molecules are considered one of the basic building blocks of life.

She isn't ruling out that possibility, however.

Previously, it was an open question whether signs of life might be preserved on the now-harsh Martian surface.

The search for organic molecules actually began on Mars in 1976 via Viking 1 and II, so the finding of them by Curiosity is an achievement a long time coming. This could be a sign that there is a reservoir of methane somewhere under the surface that was generated by chemical reactions involving water or, possibly, by Martian microbes. If extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, that bar has most certainly not been met here. These organic molecules were found at the bottom of what once was a lake bed, in rocks 3 billion years old. Curiosity has detected large organic molecules inside ancient Martian rocks, as well as methane cycles now active on the planet.

In the end, a few smidgens of organics remained, including benzene and propane molecules.

Chris Webster, senior research fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, discussed previous research that had observed methane spikes that seemed irregular.

"Once it's on the surface, the temperature on the surface regulates the way in which it holds on to the methane through 'stickiness, ' or surface adsorption as we call it", he says. "So it holds it in the winter time and releases it in the summertime as temperatures get warmer". About 95 percent of the methane in Earth's atmosphere is produced from biological activity, though the scientists said it is too soon to know if the Martian methane also is related to life. "We need to go to places that we think are the most likely places to find it".

The new findings are also detailed in two studies published Thursday in the journal Science.

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