Mars rover sees hints of past life

Published September 16, 2022
In this August 4, 2022, image obtained from NASA rocky outcrop called “Wildcat Ridge,” where the rover extracted two rock cores and abraded a circular patch to investigate the rock’s composition. — AFP
In this August 4, 2022, image obtained from NASA rocky outcrop called “Wildcat Ridge,” where the rover extracted two rock cores and abraded a circular patch to investigate the rock’s composition. — AFP

WASHINGTON: Nasa’s Perseverance Mars rover has detected its highest concentrations yet of organic molecules, in a potential signal of ancient microbes that scientists are eager to confirm when the rock samples are eventually brought to Earth.

While organic matter has been found on the Red Planet before, the new discovery is seen as especially promising because it came from an area where sediment and salts were deposited into a lake -- conditions where life could have arisen.

“It is very fair to say that these are going to be, these already are, the most valuable rock samples that have ever been collected,” David Shuster, a Perseverance return sample scientist, told reporters during a briefing.

Organic molecules — compounds made primarily of carbon that usually include hydrogen and oxygen, but also at times other elements — are not always created by biological processes.

Further analysis and conclusions will have to wait for the Mars sample return mission — a collaboration between Nasa and the European Space Agency (ESA) to bring back the rocks that is set for 2033.

Nicknamed Percy, the rover landed on Mars Jezero Crater in February last year, tasked with catching samples that may contain signs of ancient life.

The delta it is exploring formed 3.5 billion years ago. The rover is currently there investigating sedimentary rocks, which came about from particles of various sizes settling in the then watery environment.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022

Opinion

Good examples

Good examples

It is not impossible for female (or male) leaders to fulfil promises if they have the will and drive to do so.

Editorial

Democracy damaged
Updated 28 Feb, 2024

Democracy damaged

The reserved seats controversy could have been avoided had the ECP by now decided whether SIC deserves them or not.
Misplaced priorities
28 Feb, 2024

Misplaced priorities

THE federal government’s filing of a petition with the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking to overturn an Islamabad...
Killing jirgas
28 Feb, 2024

Killing jirgas

ANOTHER day and another chilling story unfolds in Kohistan. The jirga institution, declared illegal by the top ...
New funds
27 Feb, 2024

New funds

PAKISTAN plans to seek a new loan of $6bn from the IMF under its Extended Fund Facility for a period of three years,...
Missing link
27 Feb, 2024

Missing link

WITH most of Punjab and KP now accessible via motorways, which have greatly eased road travel for the bulk of the...
Tragedy averted
Updated 27 Feb, 2024

Tragedy averted

Pakistan must shed the layers of intolerance that have been allowed to permeate society.