Scientific discovery

‘Mars is telling us to stay the course’: NASA rover finds organic matter in an ancient lake bed

Researchers published the findings, which have been described as ‘breakthroughs in astrobiology’, in two studies in the journal ‘Science’.

The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Thursday announced that its Curiosity rover has found complex organic matter preserved in ancient sediments that formed a vast lake bed on lower Mount Sharp on Mars more than three billion years ago. “While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface,” the space agency said.

The findings do not answer if the compounds are remnants of past organisms, the product of chemical reactions with rocks, or if they were brought to the Red Planet by comets and other celestial debris, The Guardian reported.

If microbial life was present on Mars, it would not have gone hungry. “We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all sorts of organics,” said Jen Eigenbrode, a biochemist at the space agency’s Goddard Space Flight Centre. “It is a valuable food source for them.”

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Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at the space said that with these findings “Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life”. He said he was confident about NASA’s ongoing and planned missions on the Red Planet.

The Curiosity rover, which has travelled 19.3 km since it landed in the Gale crater nearly six years ago, detected a number of organic molecules in pieces of Martian mudstone it drilled from the lake bed and heated in its oven. When the samples reached 500 to 820 degrees Celsius, Curiosity’s instruments detected a range of vapours that researchers believe are products of larger organic molecules similar to those found in coal, which were trapped in Martian rocks in the distant past.

The researchers published their findings in two studies in the journal Science. In an accompanying article, Inge Loes ten Kate of the Department of Earth Sciences in the Netherlands’ Utrecht University described them as “breakthroughs in astrobiology”.

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Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

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Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.