Salts Could Be Important Piece of Martian Organic Puzzle, NASA Scientists Find

This look back at a dune that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover drove across was taken by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Feb. 9, 2014, or the 538th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s mission. For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about 9 feet (2.7 meters). The dune is about 3 feet (1 meter) tall in the middle of its span across an opening called “Dingo Gap.” This view is looking eastward. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

By Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt, Md. — A NASA team has found that organic salts are likely present on Mars. Like shards of ancient pottery, these salts are the chemical remnants of organic compounds, such as those previously detected by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Organic compounds and salts on Mars could have formed by geologic processes or be remnants of ancient microbial life.

Besides adding more evidence to the idea that there once was organic matter on Mars, directly detecting organic salts would also support modern-day Martian habitability, given that on Earth, some organisms can use organic salts, such as oxalates and acetates, for energy.

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