NASA rover finds building blocks of life on Mars

NASAs Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years

NASAs Curiosity rover has discovered ancient organic molecules on Mars embedded within sedimentary rocks that are billions of years

Additionally, NASA discovered the presence of methane, which is another organic molecule that can be produced by living beings, on Mars. That leaves open the possibility that microorganisms once populated the red planet - and still might.

A NASA robot has found more building blocks for life on Mars, the most complex organic matter yet from 3.5 billion-year-old rocks on the surface of the red planet, the U.S. space agency said on Thursday.

The data, collected through drilling into the lowest point of the red planet's Gale crater, is part of the USA space agency's newly widened search for organic molecules that could indicate past life on the surface of Mars.

"When you work with something as insane as a rover on Mars, with the most complex instrument ever sent to space, it seems like we're doing what may have been perceived earlier as impossible", says lead author Jennifer Eigenbrode , a biogeochemist at NASA Goddard. The two rock samples, from sites named Confidence Hills and Mojave, are at the bottom of Gale Crater. "Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules", explains Eigenbrode. If scientists keep drilling deeper and more widely, as they plan to do with the European and Russian space agencies' ExoMars rover and NASA's Mars 2020 mission, who knows what they might find? "There were signals there that were telling us that we had detected certain types of organic molecules", she says. But they're of interest to astrobiologists because they are the essential ingredients in all the chemistry that drives life on Earth.

The scientists were surprised to find organic compounds, especially in the amounts detected, considering the harsh conditions, including bombardment of solar radiation on the Martian surface. The space organization would unzip their sealed lips about what is the secrecy found on Mars this Thursday.

While this still does prove the existence of extraterrestrial life, it certainly is a step in the direction of potential life on Mars billions of years ago. Methane is another organic molecule.

The methane study, spearheaded by JPL atmospheric scientist Chris Webster, is also intriguing for astrobiologists.

In addition to finding organic molecules in the rocks in Gale Crater, rover scientists are reporting another intriguing finding. However, scientists need more evidences and observations to draw any conclusions as it is premature to know how the compounds were created in the biological process.

Analyzing pieces of rock in different seasons, Curiosity found that the rocks have variation of methane which differs from season to season.

It's unclear exactly what we'll learn from the conference, as the space agency has only revealed that it has new "science results" to share with its eager public.

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