NASA Rover on Mars Detects Puff of Gas That Hints at Possibility of Life


Mars, it seems, is belching a big quantity of a fuel that could be an indication of microbes residing on the planet as we speak.

In a measurement taken on Wednesday, NASA’s Curiosity rover found startlingly excessive quantities of methane within the Martian air, a fuel that on Earth is often produced by residing issues. The knowledge arrived again on Earth on Thursday, and by Friday, scientists working on the mission had been excitedly discussing the information, which has not but been introduced by NASA.

“Given this surprising result, we’ve reorganized the weekend to run a follow-up experiment,” Ashwin R. Vasavada, the mission scientist for the mission, wrote to the science group in an electronic mail that was obtained by The Times.

The mission’s controllers on Earth despatched new directions to the rover on Friday to comply with up on the readings, bumping beforehand deliberate science work. The outcomes of these observations are anticipated again on the bottom on Monday.

The agency’s spokesperson added, “To maintain scientific integrity, the project science team will continue to analyze the data before confirming results.”

Marco Giuranna, a scientist at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy, who leads the Mars Express orbiter’s methane measurements, said scientists on the Curiosity, Mars Express and Trace Gas Orbiter missions had been discussing the latest findings. He confirmed he had been told of the reading of 21 parts per billion but added that the finding was preliminary.

He said Mars Express passed over Gale Crater, the 96-mile-wide depression that Curiosity has been studying, on the same day that Curiosity made its measurements. There are other observations on earlier and subsequent dates, Dr. Giuranna said, including joint observations with the Trace Gas Orbiter.

“A lot of data to be processed,” Dr. Giuranna said in an email. “I’ll have some preliminary results by next week.”

Rovers scheduled for launch next year — one by NASA, one by a Russian-European collaboration — will carry instruments designed to search for the building blocks of life, although neither is designed to answer the question of whether there is life on Mars today.



Source link Nytimes.com

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