Mysterious Mars Methane: Curiosity Sees No Sign

in space on (#2SR8)
story imageIn the past decade, probes orbiting Mars and telescopes on Earth have detected what appeared to be plumes of methane gas from the Red Planet. The presence of colorless, odorless, flammable methane on Mars, the simplest organic molecule, helped revive the possibility of life once existing, or even currently living, just below the planet's surface. Scientists have suspected that methane stays stable in the Martian atmosphere for only about 300 years, so whatever is generating this gas did so recently.

A large-scale non-biological source of methane production on Mars might have been an even more exciting result. A renewable process humans might be able to adapt for use on Earth to meet our energy needs. But Curiosity has revealed no trace of methane on the Martian surface.

"Based on earlier observations, we were expecting to land on Mars and measure background levels of methane of at least several parts per billion, but saw nothing," Webster told

"It's a mystery surrounded by an enigma here," said imaging physicist Jan-Peter Muller.

Process of elimination (Score: 2, Interesting)

by on 2014-09-22 17:34 (#2SS9)

Methane detected from afar.
Methane not detected on ground.

Methane produced some distance above ground?

Maybe a tiny lightweight probe that launches a balloon (or lightweight plane) is in order. It doesn't ever have to land (although couldn't the backside of those heatshields easily be made into some nice big antenna dishes?), it could be launched while the heatshield etc. continues its fall. They already have concepts and some work done on both. Suggested names: Cowboy 1, 2, ..., n, better than Fart Fairies (although I would not object to that so now I'm undecided) :D
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