Scientists Designing Instruments to Solve Martian Methane Mystery

New Device Could Solve Mars Methane Mystery

With the detection a few years ago of methane in the atmosphere of Mars, astrobiologists are keen to discover if this gas is derived from living things or not.

“On Earth most of the methane is made biogenically,” said Tullis Onstott of Princeton University. Microbes called methanogens produce this greenhouse gas as part of their metabolism. Although it is possible that similar organisms live in Martian soil, Martian methane could be produced geochemically, without the need for life.

Onstott and his colleagues are building an optical device for a future rover mission that could solve the Martian methane mystery. The project is part of the Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development and Mission Concept Studies (ASTID).