Rover anal­y­sis: soil not-life sus­tain­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byali­cia Chang Paul Ma­haffy,

LOS AN­GE­LES — NASA’s Cu­rios­ity rover has in­deed found some­thing in the Mar­tian dirt. But so far, there’s no de­fin­i­tive sign of the chem­i­cal in­gre­di­ents nec­es­sary to sup­port life.

A scoop of sandy soil an­a­lyzed by Cu­rios­ity’s so­phis­ti­cated chem­istry lab­o­ra­tory con­tained water and a mix of chem­i­cals, but not com­plex car­bon-based mol­e­cules con­sid­ered es­sen­tial for life.

That the soil was not more hos­pitable did not sur­prise mis­sion sci­en­tist Paul Ma­haffy, be­cause ra­di­a­tion from space can de­stroy any car­bon ev­i­dence.

“It’s not un­ex­pected, nec­es­sar­ily,” said Ma­haffy of NASA’s God­dard Space Flight Cen­ter, who is in charge of the chem­istry ex­per­i­ments. “It’s been ex­posed to the harsh Mar­tian en­vi­ron­ment.”

The lat­est find­ings were pre­sented Mon­day at a meet­ing of the Amer­i­can Geo­phys­i­cal Union in San Fran­cisco. The mis­sion man­aged by the NASA Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory is try­ing to de­ter-

‘It’s not un­ex­pected ... it’s been ex­posed to the harsh Mar­tian en­vi­ron­ment.’

mine whether con­di­tions on Mars could have been fa­vor­able for mi­crobes when the red planet was warmer and wet­ter.

Hopes for a “Marsshak­ing” dis­cov­ery peaked two weeks ago af­ter mis­sion chief sci­en­tist John Grotzinger told Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio: “This data is gonna be one for the his­tory books. It’s look­ing really good.”

So what did Cu­rios­ity find af­ter bak­ing the soil and an­a­lyz­ing the re­sult­ing gases?

Water, sul­fur and per­chlo­rate, a highly ox­i­diz­ing salt that was also de­tected by one of NASA’s pre­vi­ous space­craft, the Phoenix lan­der, in the north­ern Mar­tian lat­i­tudes.

“This is typ­i­cal, or­di­nary Mar­tian soil,” said mis­sion sci­en­tist Ralf Gellert.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.