Its Path to Finding Organics on Mars

Earlier this week, scientists announced that Perseverance found organic molecules on Mars. Not life itself—hardly—but another endorsement of the ancient habitat on Mars as having been suitable for life.

Perseverance has been searching for biosignatures—that is, signs of ancient life on Mars—since it landed on the Red Planet in February 2021. But the search for that life began years before Perseverance even left Earth, with the labors of the Curiosity rover.

Curiosity launched for Mars in 2011, a decade before the Perseverance rover was plopped onto the red Martian terrain. Within eight months of arriving on Mars, Curiosity achieved its major goal: finding evidence of a past environment on Mars that could have supported microbial life.

Now a decade on, Perseverance is carrying on the mantle by searching for evidence of microbial life itself. At the same time, Curiosity is continuing its investigation of ancient Martian environments. Though thousands of miles apart, the two rovers’ findings are giving scientists a new look at Mars as it existed billions of years in the past.

Here’s a look back at the discoveries that contributed to this week’s finding.

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