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Organic compounds called Thiophenes –found on Earth in coal, crude oil and oddly enough, in white truffles–were also recently discovered on Mars. Washington State University astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch thinks their presence would be consistent with the presence of life on Mars some three billion years ago, which could be detected by Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer, or MOMA, which uses a less destructive analyzing method than that performed by the current Curiosity Rover, allowing for the collection of larger molecules.

MOMA, a joint European and US-American Instrument, combines gas-chromatography and laser desorption with a linear ion trap mass-spectrometer. Its task is to answer questions of exo-biological relevance, especially about sources, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. But at the end of the Sol, says .Schulze-Makuch, “I think the proof will really require that we actually send people there, and an astronaut looks through a microscope and sees a moving microbe.”

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Category: Science