Life on Mars?

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By Stephen Gode on December 4, 2012, 4:54pm Last modified: December 5, 2012, 11:48pm

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Curiosity, NASA Mars rover, has fully analyzed its first Martian soil samples in its historic discovery. In the image above, Curiosity scooped up these samples from a drift of windblown dust and sand called “Rocknest” in an area of Gale Crater. The analytical laboratory inside the rover has found hints for organic compounds, which could aid for support for a primitive life. Curiosity found water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances in parts of the samples. Although, NASA can’t prove that these are Martian origin and thus, past life on Mars still has not enough evidence for any conclusion. “We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater,” said SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars is included in the rover’s laboratory) Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. This discovery sparked increased interest for potentially much more on the history of Mars.

Trace amounts of water molecules found bounded to the sand are not unusual, but a bit more than scientists expected. SAM identified the oxygen and chlorine compound, perchlorate, a reactive chemical found in the arctic Martian soil. Reactions were produced in SAM which formed chlorinated methane compounds (one-carbon organics). Chlorine is of Martian origin, but carbon may be from our planet from transport by the Mars rover.

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Stephen Gode

Town: North Haven, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since September 2012.

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