NASA’s Curiosity Rover has collected rock samples that reveal indicators of essential components for life that are similar to those on Earth.
The Curiosity Rover sampled the Gale Crater, which is the location of a former lake on Mars. A recent NASA release stated that scientists were successful in estimating the amount of organic carbon within the Martian ricks using the rover’s samples.
It’s known that all forms of life need organic carbon to build and use organic compounds. However, organic carbon can come from non-living sources as well.
The new results reveal the overall quantity of carbon in organic compounds, despite previous research noting lesser amounts of organic carbon within Martian rock samples.
In 2014, I placed rock samples in my SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument to measure the chemical compounds. After years of careful analysis from my team, they measured the total organic carbon in those Martian rocks for the first time. https://t.co/LeWXQ0nBny
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) June 28, 2022
Jennifer Stern, the lead author of the study and a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, made a statement:
“Total organic carbon is one of several measurements [or indices] that help us understand how much material is available as feedstock for prebiotic chemistry and potentially biology,”
“We found at least 200 to 273 parts per million of organic carbon. This is comparable to or even more than the amount found in rocks in very low-life places on Earth, such as parts of the Atacama Desert in South America, and more than has been detected in Mars meteorites.”
The Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument was used by the rover to analyze the pieces by determining the exact isotope ratio and the amount of organic sample present in the sample from the CO2 it produces.
Stern continued on to state that the isotopic composition can only reveal the portion sizes of the total carbon is organic carbon and mineral carbon,
“While biology cannot be completely ruled out, isotopes cannot really be used to support a biological origin for this carbon, either, because the range overlaps with igneous (volcanic) carbon and meteoritic organic material, which are most likely to be the source of this organic carbon.”
She concluded that scientists also discovered other clues that the Gale Crater could have supported life at one point, like the presence of nitrogen, sulphur, and oxygen.
“Basically, this location (Yellowknife Bay formation of Gale crater) would have offered a habitable environment for life, if it ever was present,” said Stern.’
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