NASA’s Curiosity Rover records methane burps, first hints of alien life on Mars

By @vitthernandez on
Curiosity Rover
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is seen at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called 'Buckskin' on lower Mount Sharp in this low-angle self-portrait taken August 5, 2015 and released August 19, 2015. Reuters/NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Handout

NASA’s Curiosity Rover possibly has detected the first indicators of alien life on Mars. However, it did not capture images of tiny green creatures with antenna on their heads; rather, it recorded methane burps.

The burp was possibly produced by bacteria, based on Earth standards that most of the methane in the planet populated by humans are produced by living organisms as a waste gas. The NASA vehicle previously discovered water bound in the Red Planet’s fine soil, which is crucial to life, The Telegraph reports.

Dr Paul Mahaffy of NASA says the spikes of methane are transient. While he finds the methane burps intriguing, the space agency wants to keep an open mind. “We don’t want to eliminate anything, and potentially it could indicate life or evidence of ancient methane trapped which could show ancient life … But it’s interesting to think about why it comes and goes. It seems to be suggestive of a localised source,” he explains.

More readings are needed to test isotope levels to prove if the emissions came from a biological source. The Curiosity’s Tunable Laser Spectrometer was used to take gas samples. It is an instrument which uses intense light to perform chemical analysis. 

The readings, over a 300-square-metre area, increased 10 times over 60 Martian days. However, when the Curiosity Rover traveled a kilometre further, the higher methane levels disappeared.

The NASA study, led by Dr Chris Webster, an American scientist from the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, was published in the Science journal.

On Oct 27, the Curiosity Rover also discovered a space rock made of completely different materials from its surrounding. NASA used its ChemCam laser to acquire more information about the chemical composition of the rock, Business Insider reports.