This past Wednesday, NASA’s rover named Curiosity detected what could be signs of life on Mars. On August 6th, 2012 the rover was placed on Mars in hopes to find anything that would point to past or even present life on the planet. Nearly seven years later, Curiosity has signaled to NASA headquarters that high levels of Methane gas are present in the atmosphere.
The discovery of gas isn’t as exciting as the sighting of fossilized bones or small creatures, but the right gas could actually be revolutionary for scientist. Earth is full of an abundance of Methane gas because it is produced by living organisms. Methanogens are microorganisms that produce this gas and often live in spaces that have low levels of Oxygen. For example, these microorganisms exist in the digestive tracks of humans and animals causing us to burp and fart. So, if Curiosity has detected high levels of Methane, does this mean there is life?
Not necessarily. There is a chance that the gas is seeping up through the surface of Mars causing a spike in the atmosphere. Scientist at NASA decided to spend this last weekend doing followup experiments with Curiosity to try to further pin down where the gas is coming from. These results are expected to be analyzed this week.
Back in 2013, Curiosity reported another spike in Methane gas on Mars that only stayed for a few months. This time around, the amount of gas is three times more potent. This discovery is particularly important for scientist because methanogens are critical in the human colonization of Mars allowing us to generate energy.
Who knew finding fart gas on Mars could mean so much to the future of science and survival of the Human race.