Mars Discovery Peaking Curiosity
12/4/2012 (Updated 6:57:05 PM)(Source: Jason Weinstein)
The NASA rover Curiosity's analysis of martian soil has found water, sulfur and chlorinated methane - which contains carbon. But NASA isn't ready to say if those are the building blocks for life on Mars.
"It's something that we'd all love to have happen at NASA is a strong detection of organic molecules in the soil and while a lot of us are hoping this happens, we don't have that yet," said Dr. Michelle Thaller from NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.
But local stargazers are excited by Curiosity's early finds.
"Oh, definitely it sparks the curiosity because this is why the rover was sent there. It is the first real mission since Viking looking for organic compounds so it's just the beginning. It's only been on Mars for 90 days or so," said Roy Williams of the Kopernik Observatory.
A big question is whether the carbon molecule Curiosity analyzed is native to Mars, contamination from the rover, or from a meteorite.
"So right now we're kind of just rolling up our sleeves for months of good, hard laboratory work that we're hoping will lead to something very interesting," said Dr. Thaller.
The big news for NASA is that Curiosity and it's complex laboratory are working as they should.
"When we went to the moon in the early 1970s what we now have on Mars would have been a more advanced laboratory than ever existed on Earth at that point," said Dr. Thaller.
The hope for some is that Mars and maybe even other places in the universe could host life.
"We see several places that might be possible environments for life. Mars being a great candidate. The icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn being others. The problem is that we just don't have the smoking gun yet," said Dr. Thaller.
Curiosity will eventually make it's way to Mount Sharp - a few miles from Mars' equator - and start drilling.
"There's layers of geologic history that we're going to be moving up through as we go up the hill. And I think that's where we're really hoping for some great discoveries. And I would love to see some organic molecules," said Dr. Thaller.
****In Vestal, Jason Weinstein, Fox 40 HD News****
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