Defining Life I: What are Astrobiologists Looking For?

In December, 2014 researchers in the Mars Science Laboratory Project announced that they had made the first definitive detection of organic materials on the surface of Mars. The sample was taken on May 19, 2013 from a rock that mission controllers named “Cumberland”. The Curiosity Mars rover drilled a hole 1.6 cm wide and 6.6 cm deep in the Martian rock. Powered rock from the hole was delivered to the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument for analysis. The scientists drew their conclusions only after months of careful analysis. The identity and complexity of the organic substances remains uncertain, because they may have been altered by perchlorates that were also present in the rock, when the material was heated for analysis. The Viking Mars landers of 1976 had earlier failed to detect organic materials on Mars.   Credits: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech

In December, 2014 researchers in the Mars Science Laboratory Project announced that they had made the first definitive detection of organic materials on the surface of Mars. The sample was taken on May 19, 2013 from a rock that mission controllers named “Cumberland”. The Curiosity Mars rover drilled a hole 1.6 cm wide and 6.6 cm deep in the Martian rock. Powered rock from the hole was delivered to the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument for analysis. The scientists drew their conclusions only after months of careful analysis. The identity and complexity of the organic substances remains uncertain, because they may have been altered by perchlorates that were also present in the rock, when the material was heated for analysis. The Viking Mars landers of 1976 had earlier failed to detect organic materials on Mars.
Credits: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech

How can astrobiologists find extraterrestrial life? In everyday life, we usually don’t have any problem telling that a dog or a rosebush is a living thing and a rock isn’t. In the climatic scene of the movie ‘Europa Report‘ we can tell at a glance that the multi-tentacled creature discovered swimming in the ocean of —> Read More Here

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