As part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, the NASA sometimes the Mars Rover Curiosity on the red planet. Since its landing in 2012, the largely autonomous vehicle has been studying rock and radiation on the celestial body. During the recent analysis of pulverized rock samples, the rover made a surprising find. Scientists at the US space agency announced that several of the samples were rich in carbon. It is a special species associated with biological processes on Earth.
Mars rover may have found evidence of life
The discovery of these traces is “fascinating”, but does not necessarily indicate extraterrestrial life. After all, there is no evidence of past or present-day life on Mars. Mars rovers like Curiosity and Perseverance are sometimes used to search for more clues. These could express themselves, for example, in the form of rock formations that were once created by the action of bacteria.
“We’re finding things on Mars that are extremely interesting, but we really need more evidence to say we’ve identified life. So we’re investigating what else could have caused the carbon signature we’re seeing, if not life.
Further investigations needed
On Jan. 18, the NASA team published its report on the find in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team behind the discovery offers several possible explanations for the carbon. They sometimes derive these from the forms in which carbon compounds occur on earth. However, the team notes that the two planets are so different that definitive conclusions cannot necessarily be drawn on that basis.
“The hardest thing is to pull away from Earth and let go of our preconceptions and really try to understand the basic chemistry, physics and environmental processes on Mars.”
Jennifer L. Eigenbrode
Further measurements and analyzes of the Mars rover remain to be seen.
Source: Mars Exploration Program