(ORDO NEWS) — The team of researchers conducted a remote experiment with a sample of Martian soil, first collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover in March 2017, instructing the apparatus to mix it with chemicals inside a special cup.
In a chemical reaction, the mixture released organic molecules that NASA had never detected on the surface of the Red Planet.
Unfortunately, this exciting discovery does not indicate that carbon-based life forms once lived on the surface of Mars . However, this is a step in that direction.
“This experiment was definitely a success,” said Maeva Millan, a postdoc at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and lead author of the study , published in the journal Nature Astronomy. “Although we did not find biosignatures, we were able to show that this method is indeed promising.”
“The experiment expanded the list of molecules present in Martian samples and demonstrated a powerful tool for further searching for polar organic molecules related to biotics or prebiotics,” said Millan and her colleagues in the article.
Curiosity is looking for traces of Martian life
The two chemicals most commonly found in the mixture turned out to be benzoic acid and ammonia, possible indicators of ancient life. The team now hopes to find the “parents” of the molecules, or whatever produced them. Milan and her team speculate that the organic matter found may be the result of geological processes.
This isn’t the first time Curiosity has discovered organic molecules in Martian soil, but the new discovery expands on NASA’s list of organic molecules.
The news comes after an international team of astrobiologists analyzed samples obtained by Curiosity and discovered the presence of “thiophenes” , which are special compounds found on Earth in coal, crude oil and white truffles.
In March 2020, researchers admitted that thiophenes may be a sign of ancient life on Mars, but more research is still needed.
Meanwhile, Millan’s team hopes NASA’s Perseverance rover will reveal more about the Red Planet’s organic molecules.
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