Main Points: Mars was probably able to support microbial life in the distant past as announced by scientists on March 12th. They reached the conclusion after the analysis of the sample collected from the interior of a rock on Mars by the NASA’s Curiosity Rover.
“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”
Curiosty Rover drilled into the rock of the planet Mars, took the sample and analyzed the sample with the help of onboard Chemistry & Mineralogy (CheMin) and Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments. The sample showed some of the chemical ingredients required for life such as sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon. Clay minerals in the sample also showed aqueous environment, such as the presence of neutral-pH Lake, in the past.
“Clay minerals make up at least 20 percent of the composition of this sample,” said David Blake, principal investigator for the CheMin instrument at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.
Moreover, the mixture of the compounds also pointed to the chemical energy sources supporting the presence of microbes on the planet in the past, as reported by researchers.
Although the simple chemicals are showing that there could be some form of life on Mars in the past but complex chemicals such as long-chain organics including amino acids have not been found yet. However, researchers are working and they are hopeful to find some interesting things.
“Mars has written its autobiography in the rocks of Gale Crater, and we’ve just started deciphering that story,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.