Drone NASA found possible evidence of life on Mars

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There have been hints of this kind of life before (with a previous discovery of liquid water, ) but this new discovery in over three-billion-year-old sediments on Mars is said to be the most convincing evidence to date.

In the mudstone that formed billions of years ago at the bottom of a lake, Curiosity discovered organic molecules, including thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains like propane or butane.

Kicking off a quest to determine the possibility of life on Mars, the Curiosity rover touched Martian soil in August 2012 and drilled into the red planet in 2014 and 2015.

The methane study, spearheaded by JPL atmospheric scientist Chris Webster, is also intriguing for astrobiologists.

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"The discovery of methane and organics on Mars is of great importance for the search of traces of life".

Like the meteoric samples, the rocks sampled by Curiosity must be heated by the rover's instruments to very high temperatures, ranging between 500 and 800 degrees Celsius (932 and 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit), to have their organics released as gas. Those rocks are the best evidence we have that shows signs of life on Mars.

Although the media and the scientific community had speculated that NASA would today announce clear evidence of the existence of life on Mars, today's message means only one more step in that direction. However, "we're in a really good position to move forward looking for signs of life", says Jennifer Eigenbrode, NASA biogeochemist and lead author of the study published in the journal Science.

In a second paper in Science, NASA's Christopher Webster and an worldwide team describe how they have used instruments on-board Curiosity to measure a seasonal variation in methane levels in the Martian atmosphere. "We were just blown away", he said.

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Webster theorizes the methane created either now or long ago is seeping from deep underground reservoirs up through cracks and fissures in the crust. Thus, there is a hope that the changes in methane content in the atmosphere are because of the microbiological activities as they release methane as a waste or byproduct.

Scientists do not exclude a biological origin of the methane, due to the fact that its level changes from season to season. So they looked elsewhere.

Organic molecules are mainly made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and various other elements, and presence of all these elements is necessary for the evolution of biological life on any planet.

"Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules", Jen Eigenbrode, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, said.

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"I'm equally as fascinated by the idea that life never got started on Mars in the first place". 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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