NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity found organic compounds on Mars, finally proving the presence of this material on the red planet, which on Earth is the building blocks for life.
“We have a terrific discovery. We found organic matter on Mars,” said Curiosity mission lead scientist John Grozinger, from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.
It is still not clear whether this material appeared due to carbon-rich meteorites or was formed on Mars.
This discovery paired with the discovery of methane in the Martian atmosphere is a turning point for the mission, which began 2, 5 years ago in the basin of the Gail crater.
On Earth, more than 90 percent of atmospheric methane is the result of biological processes. The rest are associated with geochemical processes.
In order to explain the origin of organic substances and methane, a more thorough analysis will be required, which is beyond the capabilities of the rover. Both materials on Earth are connected with life, which can also be true for Mars. Curiosity had already discovered organic compounds two years ago when the rover analyzed samples obtained from an ancient mudstone called Cumberland, but scientists did not rule out the possibility that carbon compounds could get there from Earth.
Organics, supplied either by comets or asteroids colliding with the surface, or produced directly on the surface, face difficulties on Mars. The planet is constantly bombarded with cosmic rays that destroy organic matter. Surface soil is highly oxidized, which cleaves molecular bonds. Perchlorates also produce chlorine, which changes molecules.
Curiosity scientists are already considering ways to mitigate the effects of perchlorate in an attempt to find not only more organic matter, but also more complex molecules.