mars-curiosity-rover-soil-analysisNASA shared its sort-of-kind-of earthshaking news at a press conference on Monday, revealing that after thorough soil analysis, evidence of organic compounds have been found on Mars. The Red Planet looks like a barren, lonely dessert, but its landscape actually hides a much more complex chemistry.

The results show Curiosity’s incredible ability to capture and analyze soil and rock — the sample, obtained from a drift of windblown dust and sand, showed ingredients of water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances. It’s quite an achievement from an engineering perspective. Curiosity is equipped with a full-on laboratory, including a Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite and a Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin).

NASA said SAM has tentatively identified an oxygen and chlorine compound called perchlorate, but for now analysis is proceeding with caution. It’s definitely of Martian origin, NASA said, “but it is possible the carbon may be of Earth origin, carrier by Curiosity and detected by SAM’s high sensitivity design.” Another analysis is required before a definite determination is made.

Curiosity will continue to explore and analyze areas around the Gale Crater to determine whether or not Mars is a habitable environment for microbes. For now, the progress, while not quite one for the history books quite yet, is promising.

[via TheVerge]