NASA found Evidence of Organic Matter on Mars

NASA found Evidence of Organic Matter on Mars

Humanity makes a massive move as Curiosity Rover of NASA found Organic Compounds in the sedimentary rocks of Mars.

Mars is the first place that comes to our minds when we talk about an alternative habitat for humanity in our universe. A lot of space agencies and other organizations, like SpaceX, are quite determined to find a suitable place that could support life as Earth faces a lot of challenges that might prove fatal for our planet. The red planet of our solar system is considered one of the best options in this regard.

Its location has a huge role to play in this as it is relatively close to us and reaching there seems possible given the continuous advancement in the field of Space Exploration. A lot of different rovers have been sent to Mars over the past decades. One of them, which is known as Curiosity, has given the scientists a new glimmer of hope as it found evidence of an organic matter in the rocks of the planet.

Curiosity Rover dug up complex carbon compounds in sediments that formed a vast lake bed on the surface of the planet, around 3 billion years ago. This finding doesn’t confirm the existence of life on the red planet but researchers believe that it is a positive sign for future missions which will explore the surface and subsurface of Mars. It is the best piece of information, we have got to date, which indicates that the Martian lakes had abundant supplies of carbon compounds that are necessary for life before its atmosphere was burned.

Thomas Zurbuchen, an Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, acknowledged that by saying,

With these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life. I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.”  


Organic compounds have Carbon and Hydrogen as their primary elements while several other elements including Oxygen and Nitrogen could also be found in them. Despite the fact that they do indicate the existence of life, their presence doesn’t guarantee anything as these organic compounds can also be created through non-biological processes. The source of these organic molecules found on Mars is still unclear and researchers are hopeful that they will get a hold of this critical information. Jen Eigenbrode, the Lead Author of the paper who works in Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA, seemed very optimistic as she said,

Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules. Whether it holds a record of ancient life, was food for life, or has existed in the absence of life, organic matter in Martian materials holds chemical clues to planetary conditions and processes.”   

Curiosity Rover has traveled 19.3 kilometers since its landing on the red planet. It detected organic material as it drilled into the sedimentary rocks, known as Mudstone, of the Mars. These samples were presented to SAM which analyzed them by heating them in an onboard oven. When the temperature was raised above 500o C, a range of Aliphatic and Thiophenic vapors was observed. According to scientists, they were formed as larger organic molecules were broken down due to heating. The identified molecules include Benzene, Toluene, Propane, and Butane. Kirsten Siebach, a Planetary Geologist who was not a part of the researching team, expressed her emotions in the following words:

To me, it is amazing that we can show we have organic matter preserved for more than 3bn years in these rocks. This is very promising for the preservation of potential ancient life on the planet. These molecules could have been part of life, but they could also have been food for life. To know that the water really was full of organic molecules really opens up the different ways that life could have existed on Mars.”

Another paper was published alongside this amazing discovery which covered the variations in seasonal Methane releases in the Martian atmosphere. The presence of all these carbon-rich compounds makes future missions, like ExoMars Rover and Mars 2020 Rover, a whole lot more important. The statement of Michael Meyer, the Lead Scientist for Mars Exploration Program of NASA, sums up the issue as he said,

Are there signs of life on Mars? We don’t know, but these results tell us we are on the right track.”

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