NASA‘s Curiosity rover tasked with surveying the Red Planet has come up with surprising results when gathering samples from the soil and the environment of Mars. Scientists for a long time were fairly certain that at one point in the universe’s history, Mars was host to forms of life, but that theory might have just been confirmed by Curiosity today. The samples that the rover took from rock formations and soil from the Red Planet revealed the presence of certain chemical compounds that suggest life might have thrived on the planet at some time.
The Curiosity rover has come across nitrogen compounds which are similar to those found on Earth that outsource nutrients necessary for living organisms. The National Academy of Sciences has published a detailed report about what scientists have found in the rock samples taken by the rover. These findings point towards an environment on Mars that could have sustained life as we know it, many many years ago. Although organic carbon would have been definite proof of life on Mars, according to scientists, these nitrites that have been discovered are also a good sign of the planet’s past.
The Mars Science Laboratory Mission, which is the complete name of the Curiosity rover project works in tandem with SAM aka the Sample Analysis at Mars mini=laboratory that can actually process data in a way in which our massive labs on Earth can. SAM analyzed three different rock samples that Curiosity gathered from the surface of the Red Planet and came up with the surprising results backing the life on Mars theory.
What’s rather astounding and mysterious is that the samples were collected thanks to Curiosity taking a detour from its original route. Thanks to this risky detour, Curiosity came across these surprising finds. According to the scientists analyzing the results of SAM and the samples, the presence of these nitrites does not confirm that life was in fact thriving on Mars, but they do somewhat confirm that there was at one time a habitable environment on the planet. These nitrites could have been produced by living organisms, but they could also have been produced by thermal shock, such as lightning. One interesting assumption the scientists made is that the process through which these nitrites formed is ongoing.