NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered organic matter on Mars, the agency has announced in a press conference.
Ancient organic material & mysterious methane! @MarsCuriosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks suggesting the planet could’ve supported ancient life + new evidence in the atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on Mars: https://t.co/jVYUfbjWbl pic.twitter.com/ZHzBUbZJgU
— NASA (@NASA) June 7, 2018
The complex organic matter was found buried – and preserved – in ancient, three-billion-year-old sediments, suggesting that the planet could have once been home to life.
“With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, in Washington.
“I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”
Nasa announced that it had something exciting to share with us, adding that there would be a live discussion on Thursday 7 June to explain more about ‘new science results from Nasa’s Mars Curiosity rover’.
The full findings will also appear in the 8 June edition of the journal Science.
“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new Science papers.
“Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”
The surface of Mars may be inhospitable today, but there is strong evidence that the Martian climate once accommodated liquid water – which, as most of you will know, is one of the key components to life – to pool at the surface.
Findings from Curiosity also reveal that a water lake inside Mars’ Gale Crater once held all the ‘ingredients necessary for life’, including ‘chemical building blocks and energy sources’.
“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” Eigenbrode continued.
“Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”