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

Editorial

On a leash
Updated 22 Feb, 2024

On a leash

Shehbaz will not find it easy to introduce the much-needed major changes to the economy without running into resistance.
Shameful veto
22 Feb, 2024

Shameful veto

THE US has scored a hat-trick by vetoing, for the third time, a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an...
Truth under threat
22 Feb, 2024

Truth under threat

AS WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mounts a last-ditch effort against being extradited from the UK to the US, one...
Silencing the public
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Silencing the public

Acting as if it is unaccountable, it is now curtailing citizens’ digital rights without even bothering to come up with a justification.
Fitch’s concern
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Fitch’s concern

It warns that “near-term political uncertainty may complicate the country’s efforts to secure a financing agreement with the IMF to succeed the Stand-by Arrangement”.
Zoo zealotry
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Zoo zealotry

IN a bizarre twist of faith and fur, the Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has...