NASA's Mars rover finds 'active and ancient' organic chemistry that could point to life

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Dec 17, 2014, 8:49 AM EST (Updated)

The fact-finding mission continues, and NASA’s Mars rover has just found some more evidence that helps point toward the potential for life on the Red Planet.

According to NASA the Curiosity rover measured a “tenfold spike” in the organic chemical methane, which is the result of the decay of organic matter, meaning there might’ve been organic chemicals there in the past. Meaning, you know, life.

The rover’s on-board lab and instruments detected the increase in the atmosphere around the craft, as well as other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the rover’s drill. Researchers have been using the rover to “sniff” the atmosphere over the past 20 months, and have detected vastly different readings at different times for methane. Here’s what Curiosity science team member Sushil Atreya said about the findings:

“This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source. There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

Though they’re still in the early phases of figuring out exactly what the rover is digging into at its final location of Mount Sharp, scientists say the findings could potentially help shed more light on whether, when and where there was once water on Mars.

Essentially, this just means we still have a lot to learn about Mars — good thing we’re planning to send some people there soon(ish).

(Via NASA)

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