Curiosity finds organic compounds on Mars

NASA’s rover Curiosity has found the first definitive proof of organic compounds on Mars, that on Earth, are building blocks for life.

A drill hole on Mars. The robot rover Curiosity detected different Martian organic chemicals in a Martian rock. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Curiosity rover has measured in the Martian air, a spike in methane, an organic chemical, plus other organic molecules in a rock.

Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., said during a webcast press conference:

“We have had a major discovery. We have found organics on Mars.”

Possible ways methane might be added to Mar

This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars’ atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan

Telegraph talks to Imperial College Physicist Dr Foster to find out why the discovery is so significant. He said:

“The discovery means that a manned mission to Mars has become a more urgent priority.

What this means is life is no longer the sole preserve of earth.

This means we should send a manned mission to mars where scientists can then confirm the discoveries of Mars Rover”

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

Researchers used Curiosity’s onboard Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory a dozen times in a 20-month period to sniff methane in the atmosphere. During two of those months, in late 2013 and early 2014, four measurements averaged seven parts per billion. Before and after that, readings averaged only one-tenth that level.

Curiosity also detected different Martian organic chemicals in powder drilled from a rock dubbed Cumberland, the first definitive detection of organics in surface materials of Mars. These Martian organics could either have formed on Mars or been delivered to Mars by meteorites.

Read more at NASA