NASA dismissed the potential of life on Mars a year ago, but now, it would seem as though once again the organization is reversing there theory. Now, scientists are exploring the possibility that the methane that was discovered on the planet – by the Curiosity Rover, could be a sign of life. That combined with the fact that they found the presence of carbon-based molecules that have an organic origin.
These two things together show scientists that while it doesn’t guarantee that life existed on Mars the way it does on Earth today – it likely could have supported life at one time. Interestingly though, scientists point to the fact that methane gas has an incredibly short lifespan in the Martian atmosphere. That means that the gas that was emitted and found on the planet’s atmosphere was likely released or formed recently – as recently as just a few months ago. Scientists pinpointed the amount of time that methane gas would exist on Mars to roughly 3 months and said that anything beyond that would likely cause the gas to dissipate because of the state that it is found in.
While this doesn’t guarantee life it definitely makes the conversation more interested. Typically methane gas is released by organisms that are traditionally living, or were recently living. The fact that the gas is present would not only suggest that there could have been life on the planet at one time, but that there is also the possibility of micro-life on the planet today, or very recently.
Dr. John P. Grozinger said, “This is really a great moment for the mission,” adding the importance of the findings that Curiosity has found thus far, and what this would mean going forward. However, even though it’s been found on the Red Planet – scientists are also grappling with the question around “why is it also being destroyed?”
Scientists noted a change in the level of methane on the planet over the last year – and that change is something that have scientists baffled to a certain degree. While the presence of methane is fairly easy to explain if there are in fact organisms emitting it, it would add a completely different dilemma answering for the disappearance of the gas. Curiosity though is going to continue exploring the organic makeup of Mars looking to answer the many questions that exist around the Martian atmosphere.