Is there life on Mars? The answer may be squishy

Curiosity rover
NASA’s Curiosity rover took this selfie in June 2018 by capturing a series of pictures with a camera mounted on its robotic arm. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Photo)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected fresh whiffs of Martian methane, once again sparking speculation about a potential biological source — but researchers at the space agency say it’s too early to raise the alert for life on Mars.

Scientists who are gathering here for the annual Astrobiology Science Conference, or AbSciCon, acknowledge that depending on the context, methane could be an indicator of biological activity, as it is on Earth. But it could just as well be of purely geological origin.

“It’s not in itself a biosignature,” Abigail Allwood, a field geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told GeekWire today during a media workshop.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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