NASA scientists are still attempting to determine the cause of the methane spikes that have been noted on Mars over the course of the last several years, with few leads currently.
NASA scientists have been debated for months, even years now, about the presence of methane gas on Mars. At one point, it seems as though the gas is there, yet just a few months later – or at the next testing phase, it seems to have vanished. The mechanical confusion that is being created by this methane isn’t the only discrepancy that has been found. In fact, scientists are having as much of a problem determining the cause and true presence of this methane, as the equipment that is there making the readings.
Since 2003 and 2004 when the original reports surfaced, as an earthbound telescope detected methane clouds on Mars, scientists and equipment have gone back-and-forth trying to determine the true presence of methane on the Red Planet. That though only rekindled reports that indicated such a measurement was also found 50 years prior. At the end of the day – this confusion is something that has been challenged, fought, confirmed, and then challenged again.
Kevin Zahnle, an NASA scientist pointed out, “I am convinced that they are seeing methane.” He doesn’t believe that the source is Mars itself, but rather the Mars Curiosity Rover. He went on to point out that, “But I’m thinking that it has to be coming from the rover.” He isn’t alone in that thinking. In fact, there is a broad contingency of people in the science community, which believe that Mars is only gaining methane readings due to the methane that is being produced by the Curiosity Rover on Mars.
Chris Webster, a senior researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, points out, “You have to look at the amount of methane, not the concentration.” He went on pointing out, “The concentration of methane on the rover may seem high, but the actual amount is very small because the chamber is very small. To produce the amount we detected in Mars’ atmosphere, you’d need a gas bottle of pure methane leaking from the rover. And we simply don’t have it.”
At this point though, scientists are just happy that Mars is getting the recognition and research that it deserves. The Mars Curiosity Rover recently made a climb up a 21-degree incline, which had scientists holding their breath. The rover successfully made it up the incline though and managed to maintain its integrity throughout the climb. This was something that scientists were concerned about, as the rover would inevitably have to deal with challenging terrain on the Red Planet.