Dec 042012

Curiosity intruments detected organic material after collecting Martian soil samples in Gale Crater. Photo:NASA

A team of NASA scientists and experts said Monday that Curiosity robot has found evidence of the presence of organic compounds on Mars. But experts are now cautious and warn that the substances could have been brought on the red planet by Curiosity itself. New tests are needed to finalize the conclusions.

Samples of Martian soil were collected in Gale crater and analyzed by Curiosity’s sophisticated instruments which detected traces of water, carbon, sulfur and chlorine which are essential ingredients for life support. However, experts have expressed no definitive conclusions so far over the exact source of the detected chemicals.

They suggested that the organics could have been accidentally carried to Mars by the robotic rover itself. Another hypothesis is that such compounds would be able to reach the Martian soil also from space.

“We have to be very careful that both the carbon and the chlorine are coming from Mars,” NASA official Paul Mahaffy said. The panel of NASA scientists stressed that there was not enough data to state definitively that the compounds were indigenous to the Red Planet. It is possible that the trace levels of organics are hold-overs from Earth that made the trip to Mars with the rover. Another possibility is that the compounds landed on Mars from unknown sources in space.

“At the moment there is no definitive conclusion about the origin of organic material on Mars, but we will continue exploring the Gale Crater,” Mahaffy added.

Presence of water and organic compounds on Mars could provide long-sought proof that life once existed on Mars.

According to the Huffington Post, Mahaffey said that the instruments was carefully cleaned before the launch to Mars, but there is still the possibility that certain substances have remained on them and thus reached the Red Planet.



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