Mars Rover Detects Simple Organic Compounds


NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has detected several simple carbon-based organic compounds on Mars, but it remains unclear whether they were formed via Earthly contamination or whether they contain only elements indigenous to the planet.

Speaking at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco, Curiosity mission leaders also said that the compound perchlorate—identified previously in polar Mars—appeared to also be present in Gale Crater, the site of Curiosity’s exploration.

The possible discovery of organics—or carbon-based compounds bonded to hydrogen, also called hydrocarbons—could have major implications for the mission’s search for more complex organic material.

It would not necessarily mean that life exists now or ever existed on Mars, but it makes the possibility of Martian life—especially long ago when the planet was wetter and warmer—somewhat greater, since available carbon is considered to be so important to all known biology.

The announcements came after several weeks of frenzied speculation about a “major discovery” by Curiosity on Mars. But project scientist John Grotzinger said that it remains too early to know whether Martian organics have been definitely discovered or if they’re byproducts of contamination brought from Earth.

“When this data first came in, and then was confirmed in a second sample, we did have a hooting and hollering moment,” he said.

“The enthusiasm we had was perhaps misunderstood. We’re doing science at the pace of science, but news travels at a different speed.”

Written By: Marc Kaufman
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  1. After sharing this on FB, these were some of the replies I got: 

    “Call me back when they’ve found coal or diamonds.”
    “Yeah, I heard they found bacteria or something, big deal.”
    “We should stop wasting our money and develop useful technology. Or jobs.”

    I need a hug, guys :(

  2.  The contributions are inestimable. Consider the amount of engineers and scientists inspired to take that path in life because of the Moon landing, or some other such event. I’m rather fond of my touchscreen computer. Other than war, I can’t think of a greater motivator for the creation of so much of our creature comforts. The impact of cultural changes brought about by discovery, and the search for them, are beyond our comprehension.

    This hella kills god.

    I still wanna know what that shiny thing found back in October was. I’m a mammal, dammit, and I demand to know what the shiny is!

  3. @OP:disqus 

    The possible discovery of organics — or carbon-based compounds bonded to
    hydrogen, also called hydrocarbons — could have major implications for the
    mission’s search for more complex organic material.

    Organics and carbon should not really be a surprise!  Mars has a CO2 atmosphere.
    The outer solar system is full of organics (Titan –… –   has lakes of liquid methane).  Comets regularly come from the outer Solar System and pass by or impact the planets of the inner Solar System.

    Titan Sea and Lake Superior – size comparison . –


    Sjoerd Westenborg

    After sharing this on FB, these were some of the replies I got:

    “We should stop wasting our money and develop useful technology. Or jobs.”

    … and the blinkered probably wrote it using space-researched microchip technology, computer systems and cameras derived from the Apollo programme, and then sent it via a satellite link!

  5. Digital hug for you my friend. Cause if I give you the one you want, I’ll be getting the one I need at the same time. I think it’s time to make a special list on your FB friends… Perhaps under “Restricted” 😉

  6. Ornicar
    To go in space, they invented a frying pan that sticks to everything.
    Because when you are cooking a steak in zero gravity, the last thing you want is to see it floating away.

    This is a great example of corruption of messages in “Chinese Whispers”, or if you prefer an analogy with the evolution of biblical folk-law.

    Translated back, the original is was:-
    Teflon was invented to lubricate moving parts on spacecraft because oil evaporates in the vacuum of space, so cannot provide lubrication.  Teflon was also applied as a spin-off technology to non-stick frying pans – for use on Earth.

  7.  I guessed you did too, but as you were replying to Sjoerd, I thought you were quoting someone who did not, – and were  adding them to his Facebook list – with a little additional comment from me expanding on this!

    Perhaps we should add the “space-technology-benefit-deniers” to the deniers of evolution, AGW, and vacccines?

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