First, the $2.5 billion rover that landed in Mars on Aug. 5 is there to determine if the Red Planet could ever have supported microbial life. Scientists are particularly interested in organic compounds. But there's more that complicates the mission for those who just want to know if there's life on Mars.
"Organic molecules do not equal life," Patrick Rowan writes for The Republican. "They are just a major component."
But Rowan just wants to know — Is there life on Mars or not?
"You’d think that after all the probes we’ve sent there over the years — including four rovers (two currently operating), we’d know by now. What’s the holdup?" Rowan writes. "Like many others, I want to know ... need to know. And now! I don’t have forever."
While the rover has picked up what the Los Angeles Times reports as "intriguing signs of organic compounds in the Martian soil," scientists say the essential component of carbon may have been a castaway from Earth.
"We have no definitive detection of Martian organics at this point, but we will keep looking in the diverse environments of Gale Crater," SAM Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a post on NASA's website.
In summary? No signs of life — or that Mars could have ever supported life — on the Red Planet. But we're still looking.
What do you think about NASA's ongoing mission to analyze soil samples from Mars? Do you think it's a good idea or a waste of time? Do you really care if the planet was ever able to support microbial life? Tell us your thoughts in comments.