PerspectivePlanetary Science

Organic molecules on Mars

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1068-1069
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2662

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On 6 August 2012, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite (1) arrived on Mars onboard the Curiosity rover. SAM's main aim was to search for organic molecules on the martian surface. On page 1096 of this issue, Eigenbrode et al. (2) report SAM data that provide conclusive evidence for the presence of organic compounds—thiophenic, aromatic, and aliphatic compounds—in drill samples from Mars' Gale crater. In a related paper on page 1093, Webster et al. (3) report a strong seasonal variation in atmospheric methane, the simplest organic molecule, in the martian atmosphere. Both these finding are breakthroughs in astrobiology.