News / Science & Technology

    Lack of Methane Deals Blow to Martian Life Theory

    This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. (AP/NASA)
    This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. (AP/NASA)

    Related Articles

    Snowmelt May Have Caused Martian Valleys

    Climate models indicate conditions on Mars could have resulted in snowfall

    Over 200,000 Apply to Live (and Die) on Mars

    Mars One says it plans to establish a colony on Mars in 2023

    Journal: Life on Earth Will End in 1.75 to 3.25 Billion Years

    British researchers looked at planets outside our solar system to come up with estimate of how long Earth will be habitable
    VOA News
    In a blow to the theory that life could still exist on Mars, the U.S. space agency, NASA, announced Thursday that the Curiosity rover has not detected any methane gas on the red planet.

    The discovery of methane could have been a potential sign that microbial life still exists on Mars. Scientists note, however, that the lack of methane doesn’t necessarily mean the planet is devoid of life.

    Previous reports of localized methane concentrations up to 45 parts per billion on Mars, which sparked interest in the possibility of a biological source on the planet, were based on observations from Earth and from orbit around Mars. However, the measurements from Curiosity were not consistent with such concentrations, even if the methane had dispersed globally.

    "This important result will help direct our efforts to examine the possibility of life on Mars," said Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration. "It reduces the probability of current methane-producing Martian microbes, but this addresses only one type of microbial metabolism. As we know, there are many types of terrestrial microbes that don't generate methane."

    Curiosity analyzed samples of the Martian atmosphere for methane six times between October, 2012 and June of this year and detected none. Given the sensitivity of the instrument used, the Tunable Laser Spectrometer, and not detecting the gas, scientists calculate the amount of methane in the Martian atmosphere today, if any, could be no more than 1.3 parts per billion.

    "It would have been exciting to find methane, but we have high confidence in our measurements, and the progress in expanding knowledge is what's really important," said the report's lead author, Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We measured repeatedly from Martian spring to late summer, but with no detection of methane."

    Methane, researchers said, would not disappear from the atmosphere quickly, meaning there can’t be much of the gas being added to the atmosphere by any mechanism, whether biology, geology, or by ultraviolet degradation of organics delivered by the fall of meteorites or interplanetary dust particles.

    Curiosity landed inside Gale Crater on Mars in August of last year and is investigating evidence about possibly habitable environments there.

    Details of the findings appear in the Thursday edition of Science Express.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Doug from: Canada
    September 23, 2013 8:22 PM
    Have always had an issue with NASA when they say that because this or that substance that helps to sustain life wasnt found on Mars then life there cant exist.You know it is possible that some other forms of primitive life on Mars or other planets dont need water or methane to survive,so NASA shouldnt be so dismissive of this fact.

    by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Daikanyama, T-site
    September 22, 2013 7:04 PM
    What is the purpose of searching the existence of life on Mars?

    Knowing that some biological things had existed on the planet means nothing.
    There are billions of billions planets in the universe and it makes me no sence that we are the only one existence of life.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora