Thursday, June 7, 2018

~~~Life on Mars ?


NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life
















Nasa's Curiosity rover has found organic matter preserved on Mars, in a discovery that could suggest it was once home to life. The molecules represent an intriguing suggestion that Mars has been far more alive than we ever knew. While the discovery does not shed light on whether Mars was once home to alien life, and whether it could still be, the findings could be the result of ancient life there. "The chances of being able to find signs of ancient life with future missions, if life ever was present, just went up," said Curiosity's project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Experts say that the findings should propel us to look for conclusive evidence of alien life living on the planet. “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. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.” The new announcement is actually the result of two new studies reveal vast new detail about how methane exists on the planet, as well as the unexpected organic molecules that are preserved in its soil. And one team has made a significant breakthrough in our attempt to understand the ancient organic matter on Mars, which could help us understand whether the world was once habitable and what happened to it in the billions of years since. The surface of Mars inhospitable today. But in the past, it almost certainly had liquid water, which could have helped fuel life there. The Curiosity rover has headed to an area that was thought to once have been a large lake of that water, inside Gale Crater. It was inside that hole that scientists found the new findings, which suggest that water lake had all the necessary ingredients for life – from the chemical building blocks needed to the energy sources required to keep it alive.


NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.
The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere – appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.
Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life. 
“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. “I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”
“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” said Jen Eigenbrode of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who is lead author of one of the two new 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.”

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water – an essential ingredient for life as we know it – to pool at the surface. Data from Curiosity reveal that billions of years ago, a water lake inside Gale Crater held all the ingredients necessary for life, including chemical building blocks and energy sources. 
“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” said Eigenbrode. “Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper.”





.





"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

“Are there signs of life on Mars?” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, at NASA Headquarters. “We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”

This work was funded by NASA's Mars Exploration Program for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. Goddard provided the SAM instrument. JPL built the rover and manages the project for SMD.










 Credit  ~NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS




Moonbase ~~~~ Gateway ?