JUN 10, 2018 3:14 PM PDT

NASA's Curiosity Rover Finds "Organic Compounds" and More on Mars

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The possibility that life once existed on Mars is an idea that has captivated planetary scientists for decades. But new findings uncovered by NASA’s Curiosity rover appear to reinforce these ideas and have been published in the journal Science.

A selfie taken by NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In a statement released by NASA over the weekend, the space agency reports stumbling upon potential evidence of ancient organic material inside of 3 billion-year-old rocks that were excavated and analyzed by Curiosity’s onboard drill and laboratory.

While performing the analysis, Curiosity purportedly identified peculiar amounts of various organic compounds, such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, to name a few.

Notably, these compounds can exist on other planets without the help of biological processes, so it’s not enough evidence to validate whether life existed on the Martian surface or not. But if that small detail wasn’t attention-grabbing in and of itself, then perhaps the next tidbit is.

Curiosity also confirmed what appear to be seasonal shifts in the amount of atmospheric methane on Mars. Again, this could be related to non-biological mechanisms, but it raises some eyebrows for sure. The source of these rather substantial findings remains unconfirmed.

“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, in Washington.

Related: NASA tried Curiosity's new drilling technique, and it worked flawlessly

“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” added Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is a lead author of one of the Science papers.

“Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”

Related: Curiosity's wheels are beginning to break down

As you can probably imagine, planetary scientists are excited about these new findings and can’t wait to explore Mars some more. Fortunately, Curiosity still has a long ride to go before the mission ends, and the Mars 2020 rover will be deployed to pick up where it leaves off in the foreseeable future.

Understanding Mars and the secrets contained there have implications for understanding the planet’s history and future colonization attempts. It should be interesting to see what future studies bring as researchers continue probing our planetary neighbor for answers.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 27, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Our Chemistry Connection to Stars and the Cosmo
NOV 27, 2020
Our Chemistry Connection to Stars and the Cosmo
A common entity that connects everything from majestically looking galaxies and nebula to the enormously diversified bio ...
JAN 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
The Potential Range of Mass of Dark Matter Narrows Dramatically
JAN 29, 2021
The Potential Range of Mass of Dark Matter Narrows Dramatically
The part of the universe that we can see, which includes our planet and stars, makes up only around a quarter of the mas ...
APR 11, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Celebrating the International Day of Human Space Flight
APR 11, 2021
Celebrating the International Day of Human Space Flight
Earth's first satellite, Sputnik I, was launched into orbit on October 4, 1957. A few years later, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagari ...
MAY 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Get a Glimpse of the 'Violent' Center of Our Galaxy
MAY 29, 2021
Astronomers Get a Glimpse of the 'Violent' Center of Our Galaxy
There's a massive black hole at the center of our galaxy, but it's difficult for astronomers to see exactly what's happe ...
JUN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Physicists Find Definitive Proof of What Causes the Northern Lights
JUN 08, 2021
Physicists Find Definitive Proof of What Causes the Northern Lights
The auroras that are the northern lights have captured the imagination of people for thousands of years. While theories ...
JUN 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
JUN 08, 2021
Astrophysicists Discover Origins of First Structures in Milky Way
A team of scientists led by the Centre for Astrobiology have discovered that the bulges we see in disc galaxies formed i ...
Loading Comments...