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Explore Mars event
Curiosity detects hints of organic compounds
Posted: Tue, Dec 4, 2012, 6:07 AM ET (1107 GMT)
MSL self-portrait, November 2012 (NASA/JPL) NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has detected evidence for simple organic compounds in a Martian soil sample, but scientists cautioned Monday they do not know yet if those compounds are of Martian or terrestrial origin. Scientists reported on the latest data collected by instruments on Curiosity during a special briefing at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. The rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument detected oxygen and perchlorate, a chemical previously seen by the Phoenix lander, in a soil sample it analyzed. Reactions with other chemicals in SAM created chlorinated methane compounds, but scientists said they do not know yet if the carbon in those compounds is from other organic compounds in the Martian sample or from terrestrial contamination. Further analyses should determine the carbon's origin, a process that may take some time, scientists said.
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