NASA reported this morning that Curiosity had found an area that could have supported ancient microbes and the development of life.
Curiosity drilled a hole in an ancient stream bed, extracted a sample, and analyzed it with the mass spectrometer. It found sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon. Those are some key ingredients in life. The CHNOPS elements are the essential elements of life: Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, and Sulfur.
With those six elements, the vast majority of chemicals of life can be made. DNA, amino acids, and sugars can be made from these chemicals. As I’ve talked about before, the chemical reactions that produce the chemicals of life are common throughout the universe. Even stellar nebula, which are better vacuums than can be made on Earth contain organic compounds produced by abiotic reactions.
The rock that Curiosity drilled in was mudstone. A common type of rock in a water environment. The mudstone on Mars contained clays, sulfates, and other chemicals.
This paper shows that assembly of long-chain polymers can occur in nothing more complex than Darwin’s warm, little pond.
All this means that all the pieces needed to generate complex organic molecules were present on Mars at one point in time and in one place.
Was there ever life on Mars? We don’t know yet. Was it possible for life to arisen on Mars? You bet.