Mars probe sees hints of past life in latest rock samples

Percy drilled two samples of a rock called “Wildcat Ridge,” about three feet (one meter) wide, and on July 20 eroded some of its surface so that it could be analyzed with an instrument called SHERLOC that uses ultraviolet light.

NASA’s Mars rover has detected the highest concentrations of organic molecules yet, a possible signal to ancient microbes that scientists are eager to confirm when the rock samples are finally brought back to Earth.

While organic matter Found on the Red Planet before, the new discovery is seen as particularly promising because it came from an area where sediments and salts were deposited in a lake – conditions in which life could have arisen.

“It is fair to say that these will be, indeed those, the most valuable rock samples ever collected, David Schuster, a perseverance-return sample scientist, told reporters during a briefing.

Organic molecules—compounds composed primarily of carbon that typically include hydrogen and oxygen, but sometimes also other elements—are not always created by biological processes.

Further analyzes and conclusions will have to wait for the Mars sample return mission – a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to return rocks set for 2033.

The rover, dubbed Percy, landed on Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2021 and was tasked with storing samples that might contain signs of ancient life, as well as describing the planet’s geology and past climate.

The delta you’re exploring was formed 3.5 billion years ago. The rover is currently investigating the matter sedimentary rockswhich arose from particles of different sizes that settled in the aquatic environment at the time.

Percy dug up two samples of A Stone It’s called “Wildcat Ridge,” which is about three feet (one meter) wide, and on July 20 has eroded some of its surface so that it can be analyzed with a tool called SHERLOC that uses UV light.

The results showed a class of organic molecules They are called aromatics, which play a key role in biochemistry.

“This is a treasure hunt in search of possible signs of life on another planet,” said Sunanda Sharma, a NASA astrobiologist.

“Organic is evidence and we’re getting stronger and stronger evidence… I personally find these results very impressive because it seems like we’re in the right place, with the right tools, at a very pivotal moment.”

Other tantalizing clues about the possibility of life on Mars have been before, including repeated discoveries of methane by the ancestor of perseverance, Curiosity.

While methane is a digestive byproduct of microbes here on Earth, it can also be generated by geothermal reactions where it does not exist biologically.


NASA’s Perseverance rover is investigating the geologically rich terrain of Mars


© 2022 AFP

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