Excerpt from sciencetimes.com
Often in the media, it’s what’s new and fresh that brings in the ratings. But what about looking for something potentially millions of years old? What if it wasn’t on this planet even? Peak your interest yet? Well, if so, you may just be in luck, because after decades of researching and scoping out the fourth planet from our sun, Mars, NASA has announced today that it has collaborated with the Discovery Channel to show a never-before-seen view of the Red Planet. And it airs tonight, Dec. 18!
Premiering tonight at 10pm ET/PT on the Discovery Channel, check here for local listings and bonus material, the new documentary “Red Planet Rover” will chronicle NASA’s Curiosity Rover’s long trek across Mars, following it deep into the surface’s Gale Crater. But what’s even more important is that the documentary will allow the viewers to have a front row seat to NASA’s newest discovery that may point to life on Mars far more than any discovery before. Though there are still many questions left unanswered about our red neighbor on the galactic block, Mars, researchers from NASA say that the Curiosity Rover Mission has successfully identified methane and other organics which may give their teams a better insight into the possible watery past of our solar system’s famed “Red Planet”. And this may include life, as well.
Over nearly two years, NASA’s Curiosity Rover has been on a mission seeking out life on every surface of Mars, from the soil to the atmosphere. And while the search has always turned up the disappointing fact that life is not currently sustained on Mars, Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Laboratory, onboard of the small rover, has been able to sniff around in a different way than with the scientific eye. Utilizing gas chromatography, tunable laser spectrometry and an accurate mass spectrometer, the SAM Laboratory has found that while Mars’ atmosphere may be thin, there may be additional organic molecules present in dense areas across the vast planet. According to data, four times, the rover’s laboratory sensed large spikes in the methane content of the atmosphere-more than ten times that of baseline data. Published this week in the journal Science, NASA researchers say that while the data is significant and may lead scientists to finding life on Mars, that results are at this time inconclusive and could be attributed to early water’s interactions with the surface rocks.
“We will keep working on the puzzles these findings present” Curiosity project scientist at Cal Tech, John Grotzinger says. “Can we learn more about the active chemistry causing such fluctuations in the amount of methane in the atmosphere? Can we choose rock targets where identifiable organics have been preserved?”
Tonight the Discovery Channel will continue in the spirit of Curiosity’s extensive mission, and share with its more than 68.3 million viewers worldwide exactly what NASA and its impressive rover have set out to do. And with a tad bit of insight from the project leaders themselves, the documentary is likely to open up a lot of questions, along with giving viewers a lot of long-sought answers.
“When we look at Mars, we have to wonder did life happen there as well? If so, what happened to it?” veteran engineer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory overseeing Curiosity’s mission, Gentry Lee says. “If life evolved first on Mars, what’s the possibility that life was knocked off of Mars and carried all the way to the planet Earth? Perhaps you and I and everything that’s living on the planet Earth are Martians!”
“Red Planet Rover” will air on the Discovery Channel Dec. 18, at 10pm ET/PT.