Jonathan Lunine is a professor in the Physical Sciences and director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science. Lunine worked for decades on the Saturn Cassini program, was a co-investigator on the Juno space probe orbiting Jupiter,
and has testified before Congress on human exploration of Mars. He says the discovery of preserved organics on the Red Planet is a call for new tests directly targeting biosignatures on the Martian surface.
“The presence of preserved organics, carbon-hydrogen containing, compounds at the Gale crater site is a significant discovery.
“It shows that, if life formed once on Mars, and we do not know whether or not it did, the clues to its presence might still exist there in organic molecules. It makes more pressing the deployment of future experiments that could test for the properties we would expect life would have – biosignatures – either at Gale Crater or elsewhere on Mars.”
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