At a highly-anticipated event today, NASA announced the discovery of ancient organic matter buried beneath the surface of Mars. The complex molecules were uncovered by sophisticated instruments aboard the Mars Curiosity Rover, which drilled a mere five centimeters down into the ground at the Red Planet's Gale Crater. Incredibly, despite being so close to the surface of the planet, the rocks in which the matter was embedded are a whopping 3 billion years old.
It is possible that these molecules could have been produced by factors not involving organisms. However, scientists say that the findings, at the very least, leave the more tantalizing possibility that they are signs of some kind of ancient life very much in play. And now that such matter is known to exist beneath the surface of the planet, future missions to Mars can focus more deeply on the question of their origins.
Another big development discussed during today's event concerned research centered around the methane content found in the atmosphere of the Gale Crater. A five-year-long study of the gas measurements revealed that there appears to be a seasonal change in the amount of methane found in the area. This strange change in the concentration of methane has left scientists puzzled and speculating that it could have a microbial source or may simply be another remnant of Mars' ancient past.
One can imagine that UFO enthusiasts and ancient alien aficionados were a bit disappointed by today's news, since many had hoped for a landmark announcement concerning life being found on Mars. But, as a whole, the news should give hope to those who believe that the planet was once populated by something beyond microbes or other less fantastic creatures, since such a scenario is still quite possible. Now if only they'd head over to the notorious Face on Mars and find out what that's all about.