Although the newly discovered carbon-based compounds have not provided conclusive evidence of life on Mars, the rover’s non-perforated internal test technique could be a great way to search for organic molecules in future space exploration missions, according to a study released Monday. In the academic journal Nature Astronomy.
Since landing on Mars in August 2012, one of Curiosity Rover’s main missions has been to search for traces of organic molecules and signs of life in the habitable environment of the Red Planet’s Gale Crater.
But as NASA scientists were preparing to conduct their first “wet chemistry” experiments to test the presence of organic molecules in rocks at the base of Mount Sharp on Mars, the instrument’s drill broke and work fell into uncertainty.
The IndependentAccording to the report; Instead of drilling and pulverizing the rocks, the scientists created an updated system for the “wet chemistry laboratory” and tested some loose sand organic matter collected by the rover from the Pacnold dunes on the Red Planet.
For NASA, this change was essential because the internal rover test contained only 9 containers of solvent, each of which could only be used once.
Since the trace amount of organic compounds is easily broken down when heated on Mars, the solvents convert the molecules into derived forms, allowing them to be chemically analyzed without breaking down.
As a result of the experiment, the researchers found chemically derived benzoic acid and ammonia in the loose sand samples.
Experiments also indicated the presence of phosphoric, phenol, several nitrogen-bearing molecules, and other molecules, including “yet to be identified high molecular weight compounds”.
In a study led by astronomer Mawa Millan at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, scientists say that “this derivation experiment on Mars has expanded the range of molecules found on Mars models and is a powerful tool for biological or prebiotic combinations that could explore the pole.” He said.
NASA engineers working from Earth finally repaired the drill in 2018, allowing it to collect more samples from the Martian surface without using the drill on Mars’ Curiosity for more than a year.
Additional results are expected from the test. The mission to go to the Red Planet in 2030 to collect samples collected by the Curiosity rover continues.