Emily Outen
09-024: NASA Scientist to Speak on Discovery of Methane on Red Planet

HAMPTON, Va. – NASA scientist Michael Mumma and his team of researchers have discovered methane on Mars, indicating the planet is still alive -- either in a biologic or geologic sense. "The big question is, 'What is the origin of this methane now being released?'" Mumma says.

While living systems produce more than 90 percent of Earth's atmospheric methane, other purely geological processes, like oxidation of iron compounds, also release methane.

"Right now, we don't have enough information to tell if biology or geology -- or both -- is producing the methane on Mars," said Mumma. "But it does tell us that the planet is still alive, at least in a geologic sense."

Mumma will speak on the mystery of Martian methane in an afternoon talk at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The lecture, entitled "Methane on Mars -- Geology, Biology, Neither or Both?" will take place Tuesday, April 7, at 2 p.m. in the Reid Conference Center.

Media who wish to interview Mumma at a news briefing at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday should contact Emily Outen at 864-7022 or at by noon for credentials and entry to NASA Langley.

Mumma will present the same lecture for the general public on Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Virginia Air & Space Center on Settlers Landing Road in Hampton. The evening talk is free and no reservations are required.

A senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Mumma is the founding director of Goddard's Center for Astrobiology. His research interests include planetary and cometary physics and chemistry and the formation, evolution and characterization of planetary systems. Mumma is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society and has twice received NASA's Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.

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