Life's Building Blocks May Have Been Found on Mars, Research Finds - FaunaClassifieds
  Tired of those Google and InfoLink ads? Upgrade Your Membership!
  Inside FaunaClassifieds  Photo Gallery  

Go Back   FaunaClassifieds > General Interest Forums > General BS forum


General BS forum I guess anything is fair game in here. Just watch the subject matter doesn't get carried away too much.

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-07-2011, 12:38 PM   #1
Exclamation Life's Building Blocks May Have Been Found on Mars, Research Finds

Mike Wall Senior Writer mike Wall Senior Writer 2 hrs 4 mins ago

NASA's Viking landers may have detected the ingredients for life on Mars after all, according to a new study.

Back in the 1970s, the two Viking probes scooped up and heated Martian dirt, then looked for organic molecules the carbon-based building blocks of life as we know it in the samples. The landers found little, aside from two strange chlorine compounds that researchers at the time attributed to contamination from cleaning fluids.

But the new study suggests that the soil did indeed contain organics, which can have biological or nonbiological origins. They were just destroyed before Viking could detect them.

"This result is saying that there are organic molecules on Mars," study co-author Chris McKay, of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., told "It doesn't say anything about life now, or life in the past. But it does open up the possibility of searching for organic molecules produced by life, and that's very exciting."

Accounting for perchlorate

A 2008 find by NASA's Phoenix Mars lander helped motivate McKay and his colleagues, led by Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, to take another look at the Viking results.

Phoenix detected a chlorine-containing chemical called perchlorate at its landing site, near the Martian north pole. The researchers suspected that perchlorate may have produced what Viking found, destroying original soil organics and leaving behind the two chlorinated compounds, chloromethane and dichloromethane.

So the scientists performed a lab experiment. They grabbed some dirt from Chile's Atacama Desert widely considered to be a Martian analog environment and spiked it with perchlorate. Then they heated the mixture up in the lab, just as the Viking landers did on Mars.

Just as with Viking, the researchers found chloromethane and dichloromethane.

"The simplest, most reasonable explanation of the Viking results is that there were organics in the soil, and they were consumed by the perchlorate," McKay said. "I think it's pretty convincing."

Navarro-Gonzalez, McKay and their colleagues reported their findings last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, though the results were first announced last September.

Not proof of life

The results don't prove that life exists or ever existed on Mars. While organics are associated with life here on Earth, that's not necessarily the case elsewhere in the solar system, McKay said.

Organic compounds seem to be common, for example, on asteroids, comets and the icy bodies orbiting the sun in the Kuiper Belt, beyond Neptune.

But the prospect of Martian life may be a bit more likely now, since Viking seemingly found life's building blocks in the planet's red dirt more than three decades ago.

"There's a possibility that some of those organic molecules are in fact biomarkers," or indications of the presence of life, McKay said. "That's exciting."

Following up with the next Mars rover

Scientists should soon get a chance to confirm the presence of organics in Mars' soil. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, also known as Curiosity, is slated to land on the Red Planet in August 2012. As part of its mission to determine Mars' potential to host life either today or in the past the car-size rover will search for organic molecules.

MSL's instruments will attempt to extract organics using heat, like Viking did. But the new rover will also use a liquid method, which should clear things up; perchlorate doesn't destroy organic molecules if it's not heated to high temperatures.

"My prediction is that MSL, when it does the heat mode, will see nothing," McKay said. "But when it does the liquid extraction mode, it will see the organics."

Should MSL indeed confirm organics on Mars, the next step would likely be to figure out if they have a biological or nonbiological origin. That may require another mission, according to McKay.

"If MSL finds an interesting diversity and complexity of organics, then we could do a follow-up mission that's targeted to look for biologically formed organic molecules," McKay said. "That would be very interesting."

Join now to reply to this thread or open new ones for your questions & comments! is the largest online community about Reptile & Amphibians, Snakes, Lizards and number one classifieds service with thousands of ads to look for. Registration is open to everyone and FREE. Click Here to Register!


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
IE9 Blocks Malware, But Older Versions Are Vulnerable SamanthaJane13 General BS forum 3 12-24-2010 10:21 AM
BUILDING BLOCKS The Python Lab Ball Pythons Discussion Forum 7 04-19-2010 08:44 PM
Mazori rat blocks? Nagini Feed, Caging, Supplies & Services 6 12-31-2007 08:59 PM
Ok can you see the little pixel blocks? Blazin Geckos Discussion Forum 7 06-25-2004 05:10 PM

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 03:17 PM.

Fauna Top Sites

Powered by vBulletin® Version
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Page generated in 0.03498411 seconds with 10 queries
Content copyrighted 2002-2022, FaunaClassifieds, LLC