Curiosity Rover May Have Just Found Fatty Acids on Mars

Friday, 20 March 2015 - 12:52PM
NASA
Astrobiology
Mars
Friday, 20 March 2015 - 12:52PM
Curiosity Rover May Have Just Found Fatty Acids on Mars
Back in December, NASA announced that Curiosity rover may have found signs of life on Mars in the form of methane emissions. There hasn't been any news since then confirming or denying the results, but now, NASA once again believes that they've found indicators that there are organic molecules on the Red Planet, this time in the form of fatty acids.

NASA scientist Daniel Glavin presented results from Curiosity Rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument at the 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. SAM is a suite of instruments that analyzes potential organic molecules in samples from the Martian atmosphere and rocky surface. According to preliminary results from a recent Curiosity experiment, the instrument has found a long-chain carboxylic acid, or fatty acid, in a mudstone named Cumberland.

The results haven't been officially confirmed yet, and there's no way to tell at this point whether the fatty acid is biological or not. Glavin qualified that the biological nature of the fatty acid is the "million-dollar question," and that a non-biological explanation is equally likely. Another scientist who attended the presentation reportedly challenged that the data spike at Cumberland could also be the result of contamination, and NASA is unable to rule that out at this point.

But that being said, this is still a momentous discovery, as fatty acids are one the types of molecules that are necessary for life. Most significantly, they are key to the formation of cell membranes in microbial organisms, which is the type of life astrobiologists generally expect to find on Mars.

Via BBC.
Science
Space
NASA
Astrobiology
Mars

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