Rover's Mars Find: Carbon or Contamination?

Nothing definitive yet, scientists say
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2012 1:32 PM CST

(Newser) – Don't get too excited about life on Mars just yet: Though NASA's Curiosity rover did find a simple carbon compound on the planet, the team has yet to determine whether the compound actually came from Mars or was transported there on Curiosity itself. And the scoop of soil analyzed by the rover's SAM instrument did not harbor the complex carbon-based compounds considered necessary for microbial life, reports the AP. "SAM has no definitive detection to report of organic compounds," said the principal investigator at today's press conference to discuss Curiosity's findings, which comes after last month's rumor of a bombshell finding.

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More from the press conference, per Space.com:

  • Curiosity found evidence of complex chemistry including chlorine, sulfur, and water in the Red Planet's dirt.
  • Martian soil was found to be similar in appearance and chemical composition to soil spotted by three other Mars rovers: the Pathfinder, the Spirit, and the Opportunity.
Scientists think the best chance of finding complex carbon is at Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor. Curiosity won't trek there until early next year. (Read more NASA stories.)

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