A big, big, big new study out of Science will seriously depress those of you weaned on Star Trek and Have Spacesuit Will Travel. After a year of observation, the NASA Mars rover Curiosity has turned up exactly no evidence of methane on the red planet, one of the surest signs of…life. A decade ago, scientists got really excited when they recorded massive amounts of methane floating on Mars. Excitement was building. Curiosity was dispatched. But now it turns out a lot of that methane just came from earth.
While the absence of methane does not rule out the possibility of present-day life on Mars — there are plenty of microbes, on Earth at least, that do not produce methane — it does return the idea to the realm of pure speculation without any hopeful data to back it up.
That won’t stop India from sending its own methane-troller to Mars next month. The dream lives. If not actual organic matter. [NY Times]