Curiosity finds building blocks of life on Mars?
New York: NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has gathered evidence for the presence of perchlorates - salts believed to be building blocks for early life - on the Red Planet.
Scientists say the perchlorates found in Rocknest a sand patch inside the rover's Gale Crater landing site on Mars, shores up the case that the material may well be globally distributed on the Red Planet.
Perchlorates - a class of salts - can not only serve as an energy source for potential Martian microorganisms, but also also act as sensitive marker of past climate and can lead to the formation of liquid brines under current conditions on the planet.
The possible detection of perchlorates at Curiosity's Gale crater site was spotlighted by Doug Archer, a scientist with the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Archer pointed to the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite that recently ran four samples from Rocknest.
"When we heated this up, we saw a large oxygen release at the same time we saw the release of these chlorinated hydrocarbons," Archer said, thus making a strong case for the presence of perchlorate salts in Rocknest's soil.
Archer said the prospect of perchlorates in Rocknest material adds weight to the argument that both Viking landers in 1976 measured signatures of perchlorates, in the form of chlorinated hydrocarbons.
"If you look at these measurements at all of the landing sites ... Chlorine is relatively consistent in Martian soils," he said.
"I believe that at least some of the chlorine at all of these locations is present as perchlorate," Archer said.
Archer added the implications of globally distributed perchlorates are very important for climate, habitability and present-day aqueous processes.
Perchlorates have important implications for Mars habitability, researchers said.