In DepthPlanetary Science

Mars rover steps up hunt for molecular signs of life

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Science  03 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6324, pp. 444-445
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6324.444

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Well into its fifth year on Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover has one vital tool that it has yet to deploy: a set of nine stainless steel thimbles, filled with solvent, that are the mission's best shot for detecting signs of ancient martian life. The team behind the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument has already made remarkable discoveries, including recent signs that organic molecules may be more common than not on the planet's surface. But with the rover close to leaving a mudstone terrain that could prove a fertile target for its so-called wet chemistry cups, the mission faces a stark problem: The rover's drill has stopped working.