So There’s Methane on Mars

That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s life — but it’s an exciting sign that it’s possible

Hakeem Oluseyi
GEN
Published in
6 min readJun 25, 2019

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A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Credit: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

FFor over a century, science fiction authors have imagined that humanities’ first contact with extraterrestrial life would come via intelligent humanoid aliens arriving on Earth in technologically advanced spaceships, likely in pursuit of interstellar conquest. If the latest Red Planet news from NASA turns out to be that first contact, the reality is far more mundane than the fiction. There may be Martians, but if so, we’ve only seen their gas, not their ships. Even calling it “their” gas may be getting ahead of ourselves.

Over the weekend, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate announced that the Mars Curiosity Rover has detected an increase in the methane gas concentration of the Red Planet’s atmosphere at its position. This marks the third such surge of methane observed by Curiosity, confirming its earlier observations and adding intrigue to the notion that the methane could be biological in origin.

But the default setting of scientists is skepticism. Measurements have to be defended. If there’s any reasonable doubt, then the results are not fully accepted. Indeed, the general philosophy in science is that even well-established, observed truths are only true to the extent that they have been tested…

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Hakeem Oluseyi
GEN
Writer for

Astrophysicist, Professor, Author, Educator, TV Host, and Science Communicator