The first person to one day travel to Mars is likely already living on Earth, a chief NASA scientist says.
The revelation comes just days after after ‘building blocks of life’ were discovered on the planet.
In two separate studies on data collected by the Mars rover over the last few years, scientists identified an abundant source of organic matter in an ancient lakebed, and traced some of the planet’s atmospheric methane to its roots.
The first person to travel to Mars is likely already living on Earth, the chief NASA scientist said to USA Today. The revelation comes just days after after ‘building blocks of life’ were discovered on the planet
The groundbreaking results will help to guide the search for microbial life and improve our understanding of seasonal processes on Mars.
Humans will ‘absolutely’ be on Mars in the future, Jim Green told USA TODAY in an interview.
The Curiosity rover extracted and heated samples from Mojave and Confidence Hills in the Gale Crater – both of which are known to contain mudstones dating back roughly three billion years.
This revealed the presence molecules that resembled organic-rich sedimentary rock found on Earth, according to the team, including thiophenes, benzene, toluene, and small carbon chains, such as propane or butene.
While the latest discovery may not mean Curiosity has found evidence of ancient life on Mars just yet, it is a promising step forward ahead of missions that plan to dig even deeper into the Martian soil and a ‘good sign’ of the planet’s ancient habitability, the researchers say.
‘Now, we see Mars is an even better location for having past life,’ Green said. ‘It’s just getting better and better.’
Above, the Curiosity Mars rover vehicle can be seen at the site from which it drilled into a rock target called ‘Buckskin’ on lower Mount Sharp, where it found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life
Researchers hope to have a human on the planet by 2040, though that is dependent on quite a few factors, according to Green.
For a human to land on Mars, it needs to be possible to land about 10 tons of material on the surface. Right now, NASA has been able to land a one ton vehicle.
NASA also needs to develop the technology to blast off from Mars and return to Earth. The Mars 2020 rover hopefully will achieve this goal.
‘Sometime in the next decade, we plan to blast off the surface of Mars and return,’ Green said.
The largest obstacle is potentially building an entire infrastructure.
‘The people that would go there are real pioneers,’ Green said.
Much like in the movie the Martian, humans on Mars would need to be able to farm and establish sources of food.
WHAT IS THE MARS CURIOSITY ROVER AND WHAT HAS IT ACHIEVED SO FAR?
The Mars Curiosity rover was initially launched from Cape Canaveral, an American Air Force station in Florida on November 26, 2011.
After embarking on a 350 million mile (560 million km) journey, the £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) research vehicle touched down only 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away from the earmarked landing spot.
After a successful landing on August 6th, 2012, the rover has travelled about 11 miles (18 km).
It was launched on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and the rover constituted 23 per cent of the mass of the total mission.
With 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments on board, the rover weighs a total of 899 kg (1,982 lb) and is powered by a plutonium fuel source.
The rover is 2.9 metres (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) in height.
The Mars curiosity rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars an has since been active for more than 2,000 days
The rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars.
Due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for over 2,000 days.
The rover has several scientific instruments on board, including the mastcam which consists of two cameras and can take high-resolution images and videos in real colour.
So far on the journey of the car-sized robot it has encountered an ancient streambed where liquid water used to flow, not long after it also discovered that billions of years ago, a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life.
‘The new findings reinforce our conclusions that there is Marian organic matter in the ancient sediments and they tell us about how the organic molecules are preserved in the rocks,’ explained lead author and astrobiologist Dr Jennifer L. Eigenbrode to MailOnline in an email.
‘The detection of organic matter in rocks from an ancient habitable environment on Mars bode well for the future search for life on Mars.’
‘Organic matter could come from life, but the presence of organics is not evidence for life since organics can also come from non-life processes,’ Eigenbrode told MailOnline.
‘We found organic matter in rocks exposed at the surface where the environment is very harsh and tends to break down organic matter.
‘Finding it in this harsh place means we might find better preserved organic matter in other places, particularly where it has not been exposed to lots of radiation.’