NASA rover data shows Mars had the ingredients needed for life

There was also mention of some "mysterious" methane fluctuations in Mars' atmosphere, but I'm more concerned with the ancient organic stuff, which, it should be noted, does not mean ancient living stuff.

But National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists emphasized there could be nonbiological explanations for both discoveries made by the Curiosity rover at a site called Gale crater, leaving the issue of Martian life a tantalizing but unanswered question. This finding helps scientists better understand the habitability of early Mars, and it paves the way for future missions to the Red Planet.

One thing is for sure, though - whatever we can figure out about the chemistry of Mars, it's nearly certainly going to add precious details to our understanding of life in the cosmos.

The discoveries were found using the US space agency's Curiosity Mars Rover, which has been studying the Red Planet's surface since it first landed in 2012. However, finding organic material in such abundance suggests that it potentially has biological origins-either from bacteria or other forms of life that existed long ago. Then the scientists sifted through the results to figure out what might be genuine Martian organics.

"The new findings - "tough" organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere - appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science", NASA reports in a news release recapping the Thursday, June 7 press conference. "I'm confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries".

"With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover drilled this hole to collect sample material from a rock target called "Buckskin" on July 30, 2015, during the 1060th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars. The 2020 rover will include an advanced spectrometer to scan for organic molecules.

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The samples were found to contain thiophene, 2- and 3-methylthiophenes, methanethiol, and dimethylsulfide.

It was to a great fanfare of publicity that researchers announced they had found evidence for past life on Mars in 1996.

NASA has good evidence that Gale Crater where Curiosity is rolling around used to be a lake.

Three Mars years' worth of data shows that along with spikes in methane, levels swing between 0.24 and 0.65 parts per billion, peaking in the northern hemisphere summer.

"It could be from rock processes", processes that have been going on during the billions of years since Mars formed.

Freeman says finding organic molecules only a few centimeters below the surface of Mars is an encouraging sign for finding possible life. This doesn't constitute proof that life existed on Mars, though. And NASA didn't launch another mission to Mars for over a decade. NASA was only just setting foot on the Martian surface, so scientists didn't know enough about the environment to be able to get a clear yes or no answer. But they could also be the result of abiotic chemical reactions on the surface of the planet.

"We don't know, but these results tell us we are on the right track"'.

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