Published: Sun, June 10, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

NASA releases Curiosity rover findings

NASA releases Curiosity rover findings

The amount of methane peaked at the end of summer in the northern hemisphere at about 2.7 times the level of the lowest seasonal amount. The rover's arm, which held the camera, was positioned out of each of the dozens of shots that make up the mosaic.

NASA went a step further in its investigation into the presence of life on Mars by announcing that its Curiosity explorer robot, a mission that landed on that planet in 2012, has found organic molecules in rocks on the Martian surface."The chances of finding signs of remote life in future missions, if life was ever present on Mars, simply increased", said Curiosity project director Ashwin Vasavada on the United States agency's television channel.

On June 7, 2018, NASA released their new findings of the red planet, Mars.

On Thursday NASA had made an announcement, stating that a recent finding seems to confirm that there used to be life on Mars, and maybe even still is.

What they can't say yet is whether there is, or ever was, life on the Red Planet. On Earth, 1,800 out of every billion molecules in the atmosphere is methane, and 95 percent of it comes for biological sources: Burning fossil fuels, decomposing debris, burping cows.

The findings were published in the journal Science. Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed the presence of liquid water - an essential ingredient for life - at the surface.

Kirsten Siebach, a Rice University geologist who also was not involved in the studies, is equally excited.

"The big takeaway is that we can find evidence".

This Curiosity has detected organic matter is very complex. "But it doesn't tell us that life was there".

The methane observations provide "one of the most compelling" cases for present-day life, she said.

"This is the first time we've seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it", said Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of the second paper. The magnitude of these seasonal peaks-by a factor of three-was far more than scientists expected. "It's tripling...that's a huge, huge difference".

He and his colleagues think the methane is coming from underground.

But that's not all - Curiosity's data suggests that methane is now being released on a seasonal cycle, though we don't quite understand the timing yet.

Scientists do not exclude a biological origin of the methane, due to the fact that its level changes from season to season. The twin Vikings came up pretty much empty.

Two rock samples taken by NASA's Curiosity rover were found to contain organic molecules. So they looked elsewhere.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements.

Astrobiologist Jennifer Eigenbrode of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said "What we have detected is what we would expect from a sample from an ancient lake environment on Earth".

"I'm equally as fascinated by the idea that life never got started on Mars in the first place". It's hoped that the chemical would have populated watery surfaces on the planet and thus supported life. If you're interested in being part of the conversation, or have a burning question that you'd like NASA to answer, you can submit inquiries using the hashtag #askNASA up until 1 p.m. this afternoon.

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