Saturday, 18 August, 2018

'Building blocks of life' found on Mars

Getty    
     IMMINENT NASA is to reveal findings from its Mars mission Getty IMMINENT NASA is to reveal findings from its Mars mission
Sandra Phillips | 08 June, 2018, 07:20

A reminder: Organic molecules aren't necessarily produced by organisms; they're just chemical compounds that contain carbon. This is the matter-chemically characterized as combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and other elements routinely found in biology like sulphur and oxygen-often associated with life.

In two studies published Thursday in the journal Science, this new finding from NASA's Curiosity rover is paired with another discovery: The planet's methane - another organic molecule usually (but not always) produced by living beings - varies with the seasons.

The Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012 with a detective's mission: to find clues about whether or not life could exist on the Red Planet.

Nasa is now revealing the latest findings of its Curiosity Rover at a press conference.

The rover was able to heat the samples to between 932 and 1508 degrees Fahrenheit and study the organic molecules released through gas analysis.

"What the organic detections in the rock do is to add to the story of habitability".

Scientists realized that they had to take a step back and try a more cautious, methodical approach. The Viking Project was the first U.S. mission to safely land spacecraft on the Martian surface, as well as send back images.

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. Hell comes from Mars, NASA, and it's only been two years since we cleaned up the last incident of Mars Hell.

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The traces of methane on Mars are tantalizing to biologists eager for evidence of life.

The term "organic" means something different to a chemist than it does to a produce manager at a grocery store.

The space agency announced Thursday that its Curiosity rover had uncovered "tough" organic molecules preserved in three-billion-year-old rocks in the planet's Gale Crater, which is believed to have once contained a shallow lake.

The discovery proves that while Mars is inhospitable today, it previously allowed for "liquid water" to pool, meaning a water lake inside Mars' Gale Crater could have once supported life, NASA said in an announcement on Tuesday. Methane is ubiquitous in places like the atmospheres of gas-giant planets. They could even have been transported from elsewhere in the solar system. Maybe there are subsurface Martian bacteria eating that methane, Tanya Harrison, director of research for Arizona State University's Space Technology and Science ("NewSpace") Initiative, told Gizmodo. Methane is another organic molecule.

However, so far, tests were unable to determine how the organic compounds were formed.

NASA says the Mars 2020 rover is made up of about 85 percent of heritage hardware from the Curiosity. To look for organics, Curiosity drills about two inches into a rock, collects the dust created, then lights it on fire to break the samples down to their chemical components (which is a similar process to Viking's). Even more compelling was the fact that these compounds seemed to have broken off even bigger, more complex "macromolecules" - substances found on Earth in coal, black shale and other ancient organic remains. "I think we're moving toward extant [the opposite of extinct] life detection again".

That's why one of the scientists they quote says, "I suspect it's geological".

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