NASA Curiosity rover finds ancient organic matter on Mars
NASA's Curiosity rover has found organic molecules on Mars that scientists say are the building blocks for life.
MARS — After decades of searching for organic compounds on the Red Planet, scientists have finally been successful.
NASA announced on Thursday that rock and soil samples taken by the Curiosity rover from Mars' Gale crater has yielded organic molecules believed to be 3 billion years old.
Organic molecules refer to chemical compounds that contain carbon. They can come from both living and nonliving sources, and are the chemical building blocks for all life on Earth.
Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM, heated the samples to over a thousand degrees Fahrenheit, releasing small hydrocarbons that may be fragments of bigger, more complex molecules.
While the organics could have resulted from biological activity, NASA says they are just as likely to have emerged from geological processes, or from a meteor crashing into the planet.
Still, the discovery of the molecules sheds light on the planet's history — painting a picture of an ancient Mars that had favorable conditions for life.
It likewise spurs on future explorations, with both NASA and the European Space Agency developing new technologies to search for signs of life.
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