“If we observe the presence of biological salts on Mars, it means that there were more advanced organisms on this planet.”

Une mission pour Curiosity : partir à la recherche de sels organiques sur Mars qui pourraient éclairer sur une vie possible sur la Planète rouge. (En photo, Curiosity pose devant le mont Mercou). © Nasa, JPL-Caltech, MSSS

NASA uses various instruments of its Curiosity rover to detect organic salts on the Red Planet. Here’s why.

In the dry plains on the surface of Mars, there is no crust. Led by NASA Geologist James MT Lewis wants to use the rover to find biological salts on the surface of Mars. In a study published March 30 Earth and space scienceLewis explained the need to analyze these Minerals To understand life on the surface of the red planet. Two tools are used in the search for the three components acetate, oxalate and perchlorate.

« If we can confirm the presence of organic salts on Mars, we would be interested to know how widespread they are on its surface and to determine their age. If some were already in the old days, they might have been an important source.Energy If life existed in this place, to sustain life Says James M. T. Lewis.

In 2018, Curiosity discovered biological molecules InsideArgylite Gail, a major research site since the arrival of the rover on Mars in 2012, has been collected in the heart of the crater. NASA intends to maximize the oldest astronomical capabilities still in operation on the Red Planet to detect precious organic salts.

Curiosity, the surface analyst on Mars

In the arsenal of equipment available to Curiosity, SAM is one of the most used, Literally a “arm” of the rover receiving samples collected by a mechanical arm. The Sample analysis of Mars In the process of pyrolysis the elements are heated to 1,000 C and the rocks are gassed during the process. Geologists face a major problem: Gas Extraction from them is very common and it is not possible to find out whether they come from the required organic salts.

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To overcome this problem, Lewis’ team intends to use the Chemin tool, which makes it possible to determine the structure of a rock using X-ray refraction. Sensors De Curiosity. This tool has proven itself on many occasions Allows accurate inspection of observed rocks. The data is sent to Earth for analysis. They need to determine if the samples contain organic salts that are essential for the development of life.

NASA video explaining Curiosity rover’s research methods in the Gale crater. © NASA

Life on Mars?

If life goes on Tuesday, Radiation flows rapidly through its surface Atmosphere Thinner, less likely Microorganisms Nothing. However, these ancient microbes would have fed on these famous organic salts, bringing together the molecules of acetate, perchlorate, and oxalate contained in some rocks.

Dr. Lewis says: “ Organic salts are found in the habitat of a planet. They are found on Earth, but to some extent they are quickly destroyed by microorganisms. They are formed from the decomposition of more complex materials. If we observe the presence of biological salts on Mars, it means that there are more developed organisms on this planet. »

The search for life Tuesday It should catch the attention of scientists for a few years. Arrival PerseveranceIn February, the Chinese rover Shurong, on May 17, hoped to help Curiosity in this still uncertain investigation. A large-scale mission, Exomars is expected to launch in 2022 Soil samples from Mars are expected to return to Earth by 2030.

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