The Martian rover Curiosity has analyzed soil samples from a Martian land drift but did not find signs of the building blocks of life, NASA says.
NASA scientists revealed the findings yesterday at the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco . They said the the mineralogical composition was similar to what was found by the earlier Spirit and Opportunity rovers elsewhere on Mars.
An instrument, Sample Analysis at Mars, or Sam for short, looked at the gases that escaped as it heated the dirt to nearly 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The most common gases were water vapor and carbon dioxide. The Sam instrument also detected chlorinated methane — a small, simple compound that falls in the category of organics, which are the building blocks of life. But the scientists said it was too early to say that the soil itself contained organics.
The carbon could be vestiges of molecules that the spacecraft brought from Earth, and the organics could have been generated by chemical reactions as the dirt was heated.
Whether the carbon could point to anything biological, “that’s well down the road for us to get to,” said John P. Grotzinger, the mission’s project scientist.