The Mars rover Perseverance has found evidence of organic compounds in the Lake Crater on Mars. This was reported by Engadget with reference to a study in the journal Nature.
While not definitive proof that life once existed on Mars — these compounds could have formed non-biologically — the study’s findings hint at surprisingly complex organic conditions for the “key building blocks of life” on the nearby planet.
Perseverance has been exploring this area since February 2021. Researchers believe that there was once an ancient lake and a river delta that flowed into it. This is one of the most likely regions for detecting traces of life on Mars.
Organic molecules, like those observed in Jezero Crater, contain carbon and often hydrogen atoms. They are the basic components of life as we know it on Earth.
“They are an exciting clue for astrobiologists since they are often thought of as building blocks of life,” paper co-author Joseph Razzell Hollis, a postdoctoral fellow at London’s Natural History Museum, said to Newsweek. “Importantly, they can be created by processes not related to life as we know it, and so organic molecules are not evidence of life on their own without sufficient extra evidence that cannot be explained by nonbiological — or abiotic — processes.”
Now researchers must study the molecules in terrestrial laboratories to draw further conclusions about their origins. That will have to wait for the Mars Sample Return mission, which is not expected to launch from Earth until at least the late 2020s.
Previously, researchers found that direct photochemical reactions can provide humans with the oxygen and hydrogen needed for long-term habitation on Mars or the Moon.