NASA finds strongest evidence yet of alien life on Mars

NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected organic compounds on the surface of Mars which offers some of the strongest evidence yet that the Red Planet may once have harboured life.

The rover found organic molecules preserved in 3.5 billion-year-old bedrock in Gale Crater, believed to have once contained a shallow lake the size of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.

The molecules suggest that conditions back then may have been conducive to life and leaves open the possibility that micro-organisms once populated our planetary neighbour and might still exist there.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space and harsh chemicals that break down organic matter, so finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimetres, from a time when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper,” said Nasa’s Jen Eigenbrode, lead author on a new paper about the findings.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen and can include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements.

Organic compounds are commonly associated with life, although they can be created by non-biological processes as well, processes referred to as abiotic organic chemistry. There is no way for Curiosity to determine if the materials it found came from ancient Martian life or not, according to Eigenbrode.

Sedimentary rocks (mudstones) were drilled from four areas at the base of Mount Sharp, the central mound in Gale crater. Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed the presence of liquid water – an essential ingredient for life – at the surface.