Evidence of what may be a large number of organic molecules a potential indicator of life on Mars, with new findings from NASA’s Perseverance rover, suggests the presence of a variety of them in rocks where a lake once existed.
The latest evidence comes from an instrument called SHERLOC mounted on the six-wheeled rover’s robotic arm, which enables detailed mapping and analysis of organic molecules.
Researchers report SHERLOC findings from 10 sites on two geological formations at the bottom of Jezero Crater, Reuters reports.
They obtained evidence suggesting the presence of organic molecules in many rock samples, including some collected for potential return to Earth for future analysis.
The researchers noted that evidence of such molecules is not proof of past or present life on Mars, and that non-biological processes remain the more likely explanation.
“Organics are the molecular building blocks of life as we know it, but they can also be formed by geological processes that are not directly related to life. We see many signals that appear to vary across crater floor formations and the minerals they are associated with said astrobiologist Sunanda Sharma of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, lead author of the research published this week in the journal Nature.