More building blocks of life found on Mars

More building blocks of life found on Mars

"I'm confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries".

The Mars Curiosity rover is sniffing methane in the Martian air but NASA researchers suspect that the distinctive gas-often a sign of life on Earth-may be leaking from buried deposits and not from microbes living on the Red Planet today, space agency scientists said Thursday. These organic molecules were found at the bottom of what once was a lake bed, in rocks 3 billion years old. What they claimed they had discovered was a fossilised micro-organism in a Martian meteorite, which they argued was evidence that there has once been life on the Red Planet. While water-rock chemistry might have produced those variations, NASA said it "cannot rule out the possibility of biological origins".

Since Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, the rover has been exploring Gale Crater, a massive impact crater roughly the size of CT and Rhode Island, for geological and chemical evidence of the chemical elements and other conditions necessary to sustain life. However, whether such life ever existed on Mars remains the big unknown.

Some geologists devote their careers to seeking organic inclusions in Earth rocks, hoping to find ancient fossils of terrestrial life. It arrived at Mars in 2016 and is now mapping concentrations of methane and other gases from on high. "We can find organic matter preserved in mudstones that are more than three billion years old", Siebach said. The problem was that these organic molecules contained an unusual atom: chlorine. "We don't know, but these results tell us we are on the right track". It could be. Organic molecules are the building blocks of all known forms of life.

"Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules", cautioned Jen Eigenbrode of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in a NASA release.

"Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water - an essential ingredient for life as we know it - to pool at the surface", NASA reports.

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NASA announced the discoveries in a livestream this afternoon, saying Curiosity found the latest evidence for ancient life on Mars in rocks.

Chris Webster, senior research fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, discussed previous research that had observed methane spikes that seemed irregular. "Now we have data to confirm that there's a seasonal cycle, suggesting the methane is being generated by something".

By examining data spanning almost three Martian years (six Earth years), Webster and his colleagues discerned the first repeating pattern in Martian methane. Using SAM, Webster and his colleagues have found a persistent background level of methane in the atmosphere above Gale Crater over the last five years of about 0.4 part per billion-a scarcely detectable trace, to be sure, but enough to pique astrobiologists' interest. One of their most hard tasks is to prove that the carbon they find is biogenic, and not produced through non-living, geological processes. Curiosity can only drill a few centimeters into Martian rocks, and it lacks the advanced tools necessary to search for more complex markers of life.

We should point out here that NASA press conferences are always hyped to the skies by UFO fans - then it turns out to be something important, but not alien-related.

Ever since the twin Viking landers touched down in 1976, scientists have hunted for signs of organic molecules on Mars.

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