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What has NASA actually found on Mars - and why is it important?

10 June 2018

Organic molecules, which can also include elements like oxygen and nitrogen, are often associated with the rise of life on Earth, although they can exist on planets devoid of life as well.

"The next target is material that comes out when heated to less than 600 degrees Celsius, which is where the molecules are that will provide evidence of biological activity or the kinds of abiotic chemistry that could give rise to life", he said. NASA's six-wheeled Curiosity rover drilled into the planet in late 2014 and early 2015. These two rock samples come from the sites which are named as Confidence Hills and Mojave, and they are present at the bottom of Gale Center. It can determine that the material from which these things are made up of, and the results that the SAM has to interpret have got may extraneous signals.

"All this is possible thanks to the longevity of Curiosity, the long duration of this mission has allowed us to see the patterns in these seasonal changes", said the lead author of this research, Chriss Webster, in a statement released by NASA. The experiment involved scientists heating the rock fragments to more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a close inspection of the molecules that wafted away. With so many plans being set forward, this is an exciting time for mankind, as we begin the next stage of exploring Mars and gaining a greater understanding of the many mysteries it holds.

"It could be from rock processes", processes that have been going on during the billions of years since Mars formed. Or, did they came to Mars through comets or other space debris?

She isn't ruling out that possibility, however. "Whether there was in the past or not is certainly an open question".

This latest finding is the discovery of the first organic molecules on Mars, which - in the context of Earth - are the basis of "all life that we know", said researcher Eigenbrode. Kate told Live Science that it is a big deal to find organic compounds in rocks aged 3.5 billion years.

Also, thanks to the longevity of the Curiosity rover, scientists have been able to observe a "breathing" of methane in the Martian atmosphere, with the amount increasing in the summer and reducing in the winter. The organic molecules he found in 2012 are comparable to those found by Curiosity.

Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists can not rule out the possibility of biological origins.

Webster says the rover results don't say whether the methane being released has been trapped for eons or is being generated now. "We need to go to places that we think are the most likely places to find it".

Humayun has done extensive work analyzing a Martian meteorite known as Black Beauty and has been published in prestigious journals such as Nature, Science, Meteoritics & Planetary Science and Earth & Planetary Science Letters.

What has NASA actually found on Mars - and why is it important?