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Why is Curiosity Looking for Organics?
Organics are carbon-based molecules – key ingredients to life. If
Curiosity finds organics in ancient rocks, thereʼs a better chance Mars
once had good conditions for small life forms called microbes.
But, finding organics is hard! Thatʼs because organics easily break
down when exposed to harsh things like extreme radiation and
chemical oxidants that gave the Martian surface its rusty color.
A great place to look for ancient organics today is in rock layers.
Organics that were quickly trapped and buried in layers of mud or in
sediments that sank to the bottom of a body of water could have an
especially good chance of being preserved.
Scientists think Curiosityʼs landing site, Gale Crater, contains those
special layers, created in ancient times when water was present. The
water dried up long ago, but rock layers that remain today could still
preserve organics inside.
If Curiosity finds organics, it wouldnʼt prove life existed, but it sure
would improve the odds that Mars once had the right ingredients for
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