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Space station experiment suggests Mars rovers will need to dig deep to find life

NASA’s Mars rovers shouldn’t expect to detect biomarkers on the surface of the Red Planet, according to a new study based on an experiment on board the International Space Station (ISS) that suggests ultraviolet radiation will break down such molecules after just a year or two.

Both Curiosity and Perseverance utilize Raman spectrometers to identify organic compounds and, potentially, biological molecules on Mars‘ surface. A Raman spectrometer uses a laser to excite molecules, and then the way these excited molecules scatter light tells scientists what kind of molecules they are. In particular, they are sensitive to organic compounds, which is why they are a key tool for both rovers.

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