This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (JPL, NASA)

Nitrogen, Water Traces on Mars Show Life Was Possible in Ancient Red Planet

The nitrogen sample analysis of Curiosity findings could have made it possible for life organism to survive on Mars.

Since the nitrogen found on Mars doesn’t show any evidence of life as the surface of Mars is inhospitable for living organism, the researchers believe that the nitrates found on Mars are ancient, and could have come from non-biological processes like meteorite impacts and lightning in the distant past.


Mars Surface as photographed by Mangalyaan. (ISRO)

Other ancient features like dry riverbeds and minerals further colaborate the theory that the Red planet once had ingredients needed for life, especially at the Gale crater billions of years ago.

“Finding a biochemically accessible form of nitrogen is more support for the ancient Martian environment at Gale Crater being habitable,” said Jennifer Stern of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Since the Rocknest sample that led to finding nitrogen is a combination of dust blown from distant regions on Mars, the nitrates are likely to be widespread across Mars, said Stern, whose estimate puts it at the equivalent of up to 1,100 parts per million nitrates in the Martian soil from the drill sites of curiosity.

The team believes the mudstone at Yellowknife Bay formed from sediment deposited at the bottom of a lake.

Other evidence found on the Red Planet for an ancient, habitable life there include fresh water, key chemical elements required by life, such as carbon, and potential energy sources to drive metabolism in simple organisms.

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