NASA Mars rover finds no sign of life
FLORIDA - Reuters
AP PhotoNASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has come up empty-handed in its search for methane in the planet’s atmosphere, a gas that on Earth is a strong indicator of life, officials said on Sept. 19.
Over the past decade, scientists using Mars orbiters and telescopes on Earth have reported plumes of methane in the Martian atmosphere.
The gas breaks down in sunlight, so its presence on Mars indicated that either biological activity or a recent geologic event was responsible for its release. Based on the previous observations, scientists had expected to find about six times more methane in the atmosphere than the negligible amounts Curiosity found.
“There’s a discrepancy,” lead research Christopher Webster, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told Reuters. “Suddenly the whole interpretation of earlier observations is stuck.”
Webster said it is possible but unlikely that the lack of methane is particular to Curiosity’s landing site, a giant basin near the planet’s equator. Once methane is released from the surface, scientists believe it would spread fairly quickly through the planet’s thin atmosphere. “It’s disappointing, of course,” Webster said. “We would have liked to get there and find lots of methane.”