Mars rover Curiosity finds traces of carbon
San Francisco: NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has found hints of carbon in its first soil sample analysis, though, whether the carbon-containing compounds are indigenous to the planet is still unknown, scientist said on Monday.
"Just finding carbon somewhere doesn't mean that it has anything to do with life, or the finding of a habitable environment," lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.
"If you have organic carbon and you don't have any water, you don't have a habitable environment," he said.
"It's not unexpected that this sand pile would not be rich in organics. It's been exposed to the harsh Martian environment," added planetary scientist Paul Mahaffy, with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"It's really going to be an exciting hunt over the course of this mission to find early environments that might be protected from this surface Mars environment and see what we can add to the carbon story," Mahaffy said.
Researchers, however, cautioned that the traces of carbon could have come from meteorites or even particles the instruments picked up before launch from Earth.
Researchers hope to find more evidence of organic compounds as Curiosity makes its way across the barren, windblown sands of Rocknest towards Mount Sharp, searching for a good place to start digging deeper.
The USD 2.5 billion Curiosity rover -- which landed in Gale Crater on August 6, has already turned up evidence that its landing site was once covered in water.