The European Space Agency’s Beagle 2 is approaching Mars for a landing (bouncy, but hopefully soft) on Christmas Day (will we hear “The Beagle has landed” !). Part of its mission is to look for chemical traces of life. One of the tests will be for methane in the martian atmosphere. Methane is a byproduct of life but will not last long in the Martian atmosphere, so a positive result would be interesting.
WebElements December 14th, 2009
A NASA press release claims that the Opportunity rover “has demonstrated some rocks on Mars probably formed as deposits at the bottom of a body of gently flowing saltwater.”
“Bedding patterns in some finely layered rocks indicate the sand-sized grains of sediment that eventually bonded together were shaped into ripples by water at least five centimeters (two inches) deep, possibly much deeper, and flowing at a speed of 10 to 50 centimeters (four to 20 inches) per second,” said Dr.
WebElements March 23rd, 2004
A NASA press release indicates that NASA’s Spirit, the first of two Mars Exploration Rovers on the surface within Mars’ Gusev crater, has identified carbonate minerals “in the rover’s first survey of the site with its infrared sensing instrument, called the miniature thermal emission spectrometer or Mini-TES. Carbonates form in the presence of water, but it’s too early to tell whether the amounts detected come from interaction with water vapor in Mars’ atmosphere or are evidence of a watery local environment in the past, scientists emphasized.”
WebElements January 9th, 2004