The Right Stuff

  • Released Thursday, August 8th, 2013
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:51PM

NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. A primary goal of its mission is to search the planet for evidence of organic compounds, carbon-based molecules that are a key ingredient of life on Earth. One of the places that Curiosity will look is inside rocks and sediment layers that are within reach of its seven-foot-long robotic arm and rotating turret of sampling instruments. If organic compounds do exist on Mars, scientists believe they will most likely be found in samples that are hidden from the high-energy particles that penetrate the planet’s thin atmosphere and bombard the surface. They will also be buried in locations where water might have been present billions of years ago, when Mars was thought to be a much wetter planet. Watch the video to learn more.

Exposure to high-energy particles that enter Mars' atmosphere can cause organic compounds on the surface to break down.

Exposure to high-energy particles that enter Mars' atmosphere can cause organic compounds on the surface to break down.

Curiosity is searching for unaltered organic compounds hidden in Martian rocks and sediment layers.

Curiosity is searching for unaltered organic compounds hidden in Martian rocks and sediment layers.

Scientists believe organic compounds might have become trapped in rocks and sediment layers on Mars long ago in the presence of water.

Scientists believe organic compounds might have become trapped in rocks and sediment layers on Mars long ago in the presence of water.


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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Video and images courtesy of NASA/JPL