The whole history of studying potential life on Mars was reduced to a step-by-step rejection of the probability of such a phenomenon. At first, the planet was recognized as “dead” in a broad sense, but suitable for the habitat of mosses and lichens. After the missions of Mariner and Viking, the Red Planet was denied the existence of all forms of life and biological activity as such. Curiosity was instructed to find only traces of the former, ancient life, but the rover mast unearthed another riddle.
The aim of the rover was to find organic materials in places where there was once water – old channels, marshes, just dirt. The search targets assigned compounds of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. The probe drilled sedimentary rocks at four points of the Gable crater to a depth of 5 cm, after which the samples were burned in the on-board laboratory. At a temperature of 500 ° C, the complex molecules split into simple thiophenes, benzene, toluene, propane and butene, which are easily identifiable.
And found organic! Treasured organic molecules, 100 times more than on the surface of the planet. True, the concentration of molecules is still small, 1: 100,000, but it corresponds to the parameters on meteorites that flew from Earth to Mars. NASA does not rule out that earlier molecules formed compounds with sulfur, which gave them rigidity and helped to survive.
The whole problem is that such molecules can also form as a result of normal geological activity. Curiosity has found traces, but not a source of organic substances, and therefore declare that life on Mars certainly was, scientists have no right. But, as in the case of the results of the works of Mariner and Viking, this is not a failure, but just another stage of the research . And now scientists have an understanding of what exactly the following rovers should be looking for in the framework of solving this problem.