Thursday, December 06, 2012

The First Signs of Ancient Life on Mars?


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—The first full analysis of martian soil by the Curiosity rover has detected simple carbon compounds that could be the first traces of past martian life ever found, NASA scientists announced here today at a press conference at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The catch is that Curiosity team members can't tell yet whether the organic matter was once alive, was never alive and drifted onto Mars from space, or was simply cooked up in Curiosity's analytical instrument from lifeless bits of soil. Figuring out the ultimate source of the carbon in this organic matter—biological or not—will take time. "Curiosity's middle name is Patience," cautioned Curiosity project scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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