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Building Blocks of Life Found on Mars
National Geographic ^ | 06/07/18 | Michael Greshko

Posted on 06/07/2018 11:21:25 AM PDT by Simon Green

Day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of an astonishing fact: Since 2012, humankind has been driving a nuclear-powered sciencemobile the size of an SUV on another planet.

This engineering marvel, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, has revolutionized our understanding of the red planet. And thanks to the intrepid rover, we now know that ancient Mars had carbon-based compounds called organic molecules—key raw materials for life as we know it.

A new study published in Science on Thursday presents the first conclusive evidence for large organic molecules on the surface of Mars, a pursuit that began with NASA’s Viking landers in the 1970s. Earlier tests may have hinted at organics, but the presence of chlorine in martian dirt complicated those interpretations.

“When you work with something as crazy as a rover on Mars, with the most complex instrument ever sent to space, it seems like we’re doing what may have been perceived earlier as impossible,” says lead author Jennifer Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at NASA Goddard. “I work with an amazing group of people on Mars, and we have discovered so much.”

Curiosity's latest data reveal that the watery lake that once filled Mars’s Gale Crater contained complex organic molecules about 3.5 billion years ago. Hints of them are still preserved in sulfur-spiked rocks derived from lake sediments. Sulfur may have helped protect the organics even when the rocks were exposed at the surface to radiation and bleach-like substances called perchlorates.

By themselves, the new results aren't evidence for ancient life on Mars; non-living processes could have yielded identical molecules. At a minimum, the study shows how traces of bygone martians could have survived for eons—if they existed at all—and it hints at where future rovers might look for them.

“This is an important finding,” says Samuel Kounaves, a Tufts University chemist and former lead scientist for NASA's Phoenix Mars lander. “There are locations, especially subsurface, where organic molecules are well-preserved.”

In addition to ancient carbon, Curiosity has caught whiffs of organics that exist on Mars today. The rover has periodically sniffed Mars’s atmosphere since it landed, and in late 2014, researchers using these data showed that methane—the simplest organic molecule—is present in Mars’s atmosphere.

Methane’s presence on Mars is puzzling, because it survives only a few hundred years at a time, which means that somehow, something on the red planet keeps replenishing it. “It’s a gas in the atmosphere of Mars that really shouldn’t be there," says NASA Jet Propulsion Lab scientist Chris Webster.


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1 posted on 06/07/2018 11:21:25 AM PDT by Simon Green
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To: Simon Green

Legos?


2 posted on 06/07/2018 11:22:18 AM PDT by AppyPappy (Don't mistake your dorm political discussions with the desires of the nation)
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To: Simon Green
Methane’s presence on Mars is puzzling, because it survives only a few hundred years at a time, which means that somehow, something on the red planet keeps replenishing it. “It’s a gas in the atmosphere of Mars that really shouldn’t be there,"

I suspect cows.

3 posted on 06/07/2018 11:23:23 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: ClearCase_guy

Marvin the Martian farted. That’s why he calls the Space modulator a PEW-36


4 posted on 06/07/2018 11:25:52 AM PDT by commish (Freedom tastes Sweetest to those who have fought to preserve it!)
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To: Simon Green
“It’s a gas in the atmosphere of Mars that really shouldn’t be there," says NASA Jet Propulsion Lab scientist Chris Webster.

This is the kind of statement that shows how some scientists have difficulty admitting that they don't know all there is to know about science.

It's incredibly arrogant to say that something shouldn't be there when it now has shown to be there. But, he couldn't just say, "We don't know why it's there."

5 posted on 06/07/2018 11:27:57 AM PDT by Repealthe17thAmendment
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To: commish

That’s funny right there.


6 posted on 06/07/2018 11:28:40 AM PDT by rdl6989
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To: AppyPappy

Fisher-Price?


7 posted on 06/07/2018 11:30:00 AM PDT by jmacusa ("Made it Ma, top of the world!'')
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To: Simon Green

8 posted on 06/07/2018 11:30:20 AM PDT by Rio (I was deplorable when deplorable wasn't cool.)
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To: Simon Green

That’s really.....something...


9 posted on 06/07/2018 11:30:44 AM PDT by DungeonMaster (...the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light...)
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To: Simon Green

The Martian dry cleaners destroyed the planet with their perchlorate...


10 posted on 06/07/2018 11:31:10 AM PDT by shotgun
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To: ClearCase_guy

Petrol still in Gene Hunt’s Cortina?

Maybe leaked oil?


11 posted on 06/07/2018 11:32:05 AM PDT by wally_bert (I didn't get where I am today by selling ice cream tasting of bookends, pumice stone & West Germany)
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To: ClearCase_guy
I suspect cows.

As there was once a cow that jumped over the moon back in my verbal ancestral tales millions of years ago when I was a child who is really to say maybe a few made it to Mars?

12 posted on 06/07/2018 11:33:52 AM PDT by Karliner (Jeremiah29:11,Romans8:28 Isa 17, Damascus has fallen)
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To: Simon Green
I work with an amazing group of people on Mars, and we have discovered so much.

Jennifer, don't let the cat out of the bag! There are no Martians. Repeat again, there are no Martians...

13 posted on 06/07/2018 11:34:27 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Simon Green
“It’s a gas in the atmosphere of Mars that really shouldn’t be there,"

Global warming! They're driving a Rover around on Mars. Mankind is polluting the Martian atmosphere! /s

14 posted on 06/07/2018 11:34:30 AM PDT by roadcat
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To: ClearCase_guy

Was just thinking the same thing.

Maybe, when the cow jumped over the moon, she actually went further and landed on Mars — and farts occasionally.


15 posted on 06/07/2018 11:34:39 AM PDT by TomGuy
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To: Repealthe17thAmendment

I think you are mistaking a figure of speech for a dogmatic assertion. We all use figures of speech in common everyday language. “I love meatballs,” or “I’m sweating my ass off.” There are literally thousands of examples. The scientist saying “that shouldn’t be there” is using a figure of speech to say it is something unexpected, something new to add to his knowledge and to be explored. Not arrogance, but wonder.


16 posted on 06/07/2018 11:35:54 AM PDT by Avalon Memories ( Proud Deplorable. Proud born-in-the-USA American Dreamer.)
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To: shotgun

There is actually a youtube video that makes the claim, based on the substances that have been found on mars, that it was wiped out by a nuclear war.


17 posted on 06/07/2018 11:36:49 AM PDT by robroys woman (So you're not confused, I'm using my wife's account.)
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To: Avalon Memories

That’s correct. Also — it is a noteworthy statement because it indicates a surprise finding.


18 posted on 06/07/2018 11:38:48 AM PDT by plain talk
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To: Simon Green
The molecules mentioned in the corresponding NASA/JPL release, in addition to methane, are "thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene".

Could be cows but my guess is volcanoes.

19 posted on 06/07/2018 11:39:13 AM PDT by InABunkerUnderSF (Time to BLOAT again.)
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To: Simon Green
Day to day, it’s easy to lose sight of an astonishing fact: Since 2012, humankind has been driving a nuclear-powered sciencemobile the size of an SUV on another planet.

Do you think that if Russia, or India, or China had successfully landed a nuclear-powered robot on the surface of Mars, and driven it around doing science for five years, they would have graciously assigned credit for their achievement to "humankind" ?

20 posted on 06/07/2018 11:39:49 AM PDT by Steely Tom ([Seth Rich] == [the Democrat's John Dean])
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