Organic Salts Detected On Mars From Curiosity Instrument, Adds More To Evidence Of Past Life On Red Planet

Mars has time and again shown signs to habitat life. The planet is believed to once conducive to host life. NASA has now claimed that it detected organic salts on the planet. The latest discovery can be crucial in the search for evidence of life on the planet. A NASA team said that organic salts like iron, calcium, and magnesium oxalates and acetates are present on the Red Planet. These compounds are believed to be the chemical remainders of organic compounds. The team said that organic salts may be widespread in its surface sediments. The team believes that the detection of organic salts could provide some evidence to establish the fact that life once existed beyond Earth. The discovery was made during lab experiments and a detailed analysis of data obtained from Sample Analysis at Mars or SAM.

SAM is a portable chemistry lab. It is fitted inside the belly of Curiosity. Curiosity is a Mars rover. It was launched by NASA in November 2011 and landed on the planet in August in the subsequent year. The car-sized rover is still active. It is exploring the Gale crater and sending crucial data back to Earth. NASA in a statement said that the discovery of organic salts and compounds could be the remnants of microbial life that once existed or formed by geologic processes. The agency noted that it makes the perfect case to carry out further investigation. It adds more evidence to the arguments that Mars was once a habitable place. It said that possibility is high that organic compounds could be preserved below the Martian surface. Therefore, it is ideal to drill deeper to understand the Martian composition.

NASA said that identifying organic salts directly with instruments like SAM is difficult. SAM basically heats the soil and rocks. This releases gases from soil and rocks and helps in understanding the composition. The team proposed using the CheMin instrument of Curiosity to detect organic compounds. CheMin team said that the tool can detect certain organic salts. The compounds need to be present in sufficient amounts for detection. NASA said that the instrument has, however, not detected organic salts on the Red Planet. The agency said that SAM and CheMin will continue to search for signs of organic salts and compounds Curiosity moves into a new region in the Gale Crater. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency said that the ExoMars rover will carry an instrument that will drill down to 6.5 feet. The rover is proposed to be launched in September 2022.

Dorothy Martin