NASA discovers hitherto unknown organic molecules on Mars |  Technique

The Curiosity rover discovered, by the method of “wet chemistry”, hitherto unknown organic molecules on the surface of Mars. This experiment did not require shallow drilling.

NASA’s Curiosity probe has discovered, thanks to a new onboard experiment, So far unknown organic molecules on Mars, an advance that could lead to the development of better tools in the search for chemical traces that give signs of life on other planets.

Although the None of the specific organic molecules in sand are an unequivocal sign of life, the study, published Monday in the journal natural astronomy, suggests that the rover’s experimental technology, which did not require the rover to drill, could be an effective way to search for organic molecules in future space exploration missions.

Curiosity in search of signs of life

Since landing on Mars in August 2012, one of Curiosity’s main missions has been Look for traces of organic molecules and signs of life in ancient habitable environments on the Red Planet in the gale hole.

But while NASA scientists were preparing to conduct a “wet chemistry” experiment first and sample Martian rocks at the base of Mount Sharp, His pit suddenly stopped working.

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Then NASA scientists changed their strategy and Developed a revised system for the “wet chemistry laboratory” to verify organic matter. Instead of crushing the rock samples and turning them into a powder, some of the loose sand that had already been collected on Ogunquit Beach was fed into the laboratory.

According to NASA, this change was crucial, since the on-board laboratory includes only nine beakers of solvent that can only be used once. For this reason, researchers must select the specimens of their choice.

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The importance of solvent

Since any trace of organic compounds on Mars can easily degrade when heated, Solvents help to carry out chemical analysis without breaking down the molecules, and convert them to derived forms.

As the Science Intermediate Science Alert points out, this It is a cleverly designed system that allows scientists to rapidly analyze Martian soil from Earth. However, as of the end of 2016, this method has never been tested.

Thus, the NASA team, without really suspecting that the Ogunquit sands are rich in organic matter, decided to analyze them anyway for fear that they would not be able to continue drilling on the Red Planet.

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No organic compounds have been identified on Mars

By breaking the first seal of Ogunquit sand, researchers found several organic compounds, including ammonia and benzoic acid. Some organic compounds have not been identified on the surface of Mars.

The tests also indicated the presence of other molecules, such as phosphoric, phenol, and various molecules with nitrogen, and High molecular weight compounds not yet identified..

“This derivatization experiment on Mars has expanded the inventory of molecules found in samples of Mars and Proven to be a powerful tool that allows us to continue to search for biologically relevant or prebiotic polar organic molecules,” say scientists in the study, led by astrobiologist Maeva Millan, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Successful experience without the need for training

After more than a year without Curiosity’s exercise, engineers on the ground They were able to fix the drills on the stellar and get them back on track. However, by that time, we already knew that wet chemistry mugs could work.

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Expect more test results. For example, in 2019, the second ship was ready for use in a clay rock sample from the top of Mount Sharp.

very A future mission to the red planet is being prepared in 2030 To collect samples from the Curiosity rover.

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