Organics on Mars, but what about life?
One of the studies details organic compounds found by the rover in preserved rock that dates back about 3 billions years.
Organic compounds are incredibly important when hunting for life elsewhere in the solar system. All life on our planet is carbon-based, so finding organics elsewhere could hint, but not necessarily confirm, the existence of alien life.
While the organics themselves aren’t signs of life — they could have been formed through natural geological processes — it’s possible that the chains of carbon molecules found on Mars by Curiosity’s drill were once part of something that was living or even food for a living creature, planetary geologist Kirsten Siebach said in an interview.
That said, it’s not as if Curiosity can trace back the origin of these organics, but at least the long-preserved molecules will give us hope for one day finding signs of life preserved in the rusty Martian dirt.
“Curiosity has not determined the source of the organic molecules,” Jen Eigenbrode, lead author of the organics study, said in the NASA statement.
“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.”