The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instruments, which have been rolling across the planet’s surface taking photographs and investigating the environment, have been hunting for compounds such as methane, as well as hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, since these are the building blocks of life.

Researchers were excited when SAM sent back evidence of simple organic compounds in the soil but they cautioned that the traces of carbon could have come from meteorites or even particles the instruments picked up before launch from Earth reports

“It’s not unexpected that this sand pile would not be rich in organics. It’s been exposed to the harsh Martian environment,” said NASA’s  Paul Mahaffy.

“It’s going to be an exciting hunt to find early environments that might be protected from this harsh surface environment.”

Scientists do not expect aliens or living creatures but they hope to use it to analyse soil and rocks for signs the building blocks of life are present and may have supported life in the past.

Image via Getty