NASA has discovered ancient organics on the surface of Mars

NASA news conference Mars announcement

A NASA robot has detected 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, scientists said Thursday.

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

A Nasa rover has detected a bonanza of organic compounds on the surface of the planet and seasonal fluctuations of atmospheric methane, in findings that mark some of the strongest evidence ever that Earth's neighbour may have harboured life.

The organic molecules were unearthed by NASA's remote Curiosity rover after digging into three billion-year-old rock near the surface.

Two recent discoveries from Mars - one from the surface and one in the atmosphere - are the latest evidence that the Red Planet could have once supported life, according to NASA. "As NASA put it, Water-rock chemistry might have generated the methane, but scientists can not rule out the possibility of biological origins".

The samples were drilled from the base of Mount Sharp, inside a basin called Gale Crater. The findings add to the body of evidence suggesting Mars may once have been able to sustain life.

"It's not that they haven't found a bit of organic matter before or even the methane in the atmosphere.it's that they've now definitively shown this to be the case".

A seasonal change in methane levels is exciting, he said, because 95 percent of the methane observed on Earth is the result of biology.

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Each ice station will consist of layers of material and solid blocks of ice that students will drill into using equipment they designed and built.

NASA's scientists saw "fragments" of organic molecules that were similar to those found in sedimentary rock on Earth.

If microbial life was present on Mars, it would not have gone hungry. The 96-mile crater, named for Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale, was most likely formed by meteor impact between 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago.

On February 26, 2018, it bored a hole about 0.5 inches deep into a target rock, during the trial run of a new, jury-rigged drilling technique.

The amount of methane peaked at the end of summer in the northern hemisphere at about 2.7 times the level of the lowest seasonal amount. Pictured, a computer-generated view depicting part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater beginning to catch morning light. "Now we can direct future missions in that direction". "It probably indicates more active water in the subsurface than we understood", scientist Kirsten Siebach, Martian geologist at Rice University not involved with the studies, told Gizmodo.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, praised the findings and said he is positive NASA's search for alien life is headed in the right direction.

"Because this lake had everything that organisms needed to be happy, maybe there was life in the lake", she says. "The first one would be life, which we don't know about". We don't know if that methane is ancient, we don't know if it's modern. They're considered necessary for life to form, but there are plenty of places with lots of organic compounds but no life.

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