Contrary to the excitement swirling last week after NASA said the organic compound seeking instrument, SAM, has found something very exciting, NASA has detected no Martian organic molecules at this point. Organic molecules are carbon-containing compounds essential for life on Earth.
The instrument did detect simple chlorinated carbon compounds, represented by ball-and-stick models on the graph. These compounds contain hydrogen and carbon as well as chlorine. More work is needed to determine if the carbon in these molecules is of terrestrial or Martian origin. The chlorinated compounds were likely created from a reaction with perchlorate or a perchlorite-like phase and carbon-containing molecules.