NASA went a step further in its investigation into the presence of life on Mars by announcing that its Curiosity explorer robot, a mission that landed on that planet in 2012, has found organic molecules in rocks on the Martian surface.“The chances of finding signs of remote life in future missions, if life was ever present on Mars, simply increased,” said Curiosity project director Ashwin Vasavada on the US agency’s television channel.
Specifically, the Martian robot found complex organic material in rocks of the red planet formed 3 billion years ago, a finding that could indicate that there was ever life there.
In this regard, Jennifer Eigenbrode, of NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Maryland (USA), said finding organic molecules in the first five centimeters of rock deposited when Mars could have been habitable, “is a good omen for future missions that will deepen more. “
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.
For the director of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Division, Paul Mahaffy, this is a “very exciting” discovery for spatial knowledge.
“This is a very exciting discovery, but we can not confirm the origin of these molecules yet, it could be a previous life test, but they could also belong to a meteorite or other sources,” said a cautious Mahaffy in the same presentation.
The US space agency, however, stressed that this type of particle could have been the food source of a hypothetical microbial life on Mars.
“We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all kinds of organic products, it is a source of valuable food for them,” said Eigenbrode.
The exploration of the Curiosity robot, which already discovered in 2013 the first signs of water on the planet Mars, also determined that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere of that planet changes with the seasons.
The measurements made by Curiosity in the Gale crater have discovered that the atmospheric levels of methane in the red planet follow a seasonal cycle and have confirmed that it is higher around the equinoxes (spring and autumn) and less at the solstices.
Although the origin of the gas remains unknown, one of the main theories holds that it would come from reservoirs in the subsoil called “clathrates” in which it could have been trapped in the past, according to Efe researchers from the Center for Astrobiology (CAB), who participated in the study.
“All this is possible thanks to the longevity of Curiosity, the long duration of this mission has allowed us to see the patterns in these seasonal changes,” said the lead author of this research, Chriss Webster, in a statement released by NASA.
The announcement of the progress of the Curiosity Martian mission came after NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Wednesday that the space agency is negotiating with several international companies to commercialize the International Space Station (ISS).
If the agreement were closed, these companies would form a consortium that would take over the operation of the ISS, whose maintenance costs about 4,000 million dollars a year, and which would manage it as a commercial space laboratory.