Building blocks of life on Mars found

Christopher Davidson
June 10, 2018

Should Nasa not make it beforehand, Europe's ExoMars rover due to land on the planet in 2020 will drill deeper than Curiosity can.

For the first time, scientists say they have clear evidence that the chemical building blocks of life exist on Mars.

The new evidence comes from a pair of rocks.

Powder from the rocks went into an analyzer on the rover called SAM that can determine what they were made of.

It is yesterday evening that the us space agency's announcement came from the Goddard Space Flight Center: the Curiosity Rover has found traces of throwing in the martian soil! Mars scientists have long feared that any organics would be extremely tough to find.

"Whether it holds a record of ancient life, is the food for extant life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes", Eigenbrode said. When NASA successfully landed the rover, it was one of the agency's most challenging and complex missions, and today that success is paying dividends. The mudstone gradually formed from silt that settled out of the water and accumulated at the bottom of the lake.

And then there's the most intriguing possibility. Or, did they came to Mars through comets or other space debris? "And even if life was never around, they [the molecules] tell us there was at least something around for organisms to eat". Organic matter comprises a large number of compounds containing carbon atoms which are vital for the formation of life but there are numerous places with lots of organic matter but with no life.

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"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. About 3.5 billion years ago, research suggests, this pockmark on the Martian surface was brimming with water.

"And maybe we can find something better preserved than that, that has signatures of life in it", she said. Although there was no way to directly date the organic material found within the rocks, it has to be at least as old as the rocks themselves.

"We have no proof that the methane is formed biologically, but we can not rule it out, even with this new data set", Webster said.

He and his colleagues think the methane is coming from underground.

Analyzing pieces of rock in different seasons, Curiosity found that the rocks have variation of methane which differs from season to season. If you're interested in being part of the conversation, or have a burning question that you'd like NASA to answer, you can submit inquiries using the hashtag #askNASA up until 1 p.m. this afternoon.

The studies on methane and on organic molecules were published Thursday in the journal Science.

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