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ESA comet team detects organic molecules, basis of life on Earth

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 00:55

Scientists at Germany's Aerospace Center (DLR) say European comet lander Philae 'sniffed' organic molecules containing the carbon element that is the basis of life on Earth before its primary battery ran out and it shut down. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

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ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) European comet lander Philae 'sniffed' organic molecules containing the carbon element that is the basis of life on Earth before its primary battery ran out and it shut down, scientists in Germany said on Wednesday (November 19). They said it was not yet clear whether they included the complex compounds that make up proteins. One of the key aims of the mission is to discover whether carbon-based compounds, and through them, ultimately, life, were brought to early Earth by comets. Philae landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a 10-year journey through space aboard the Rosetta spacecraft on a mission to unlock details about how planets and maybe even how life evolved. It wrapped up its 57-hour mission on the comet's surface on Saturday after radioing back data from a series of experiments as its battery ran out. Comets date back to the formation of our solar system and have preserved ancient organic molecules like a time capsule. The COSAC gas analysing instrument on Philae was able to 'sniff' the atmosphere and detect the first organic molecules after landing, the DLR German Aerospace Center said. "With COSAC we succeeded to identify several organic molecules in the so-called sniffing mode, so detecting the atmosphere, so to say, close to the comet. And we are currently investigating which species of molecules exactly these were in our spectrometers but these will be published very soon," Philae lander manager at the DLR, Dr. Stephen Ulamec, told Reuters.

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ESA comet team detects organic molecules, basis of life on Earth

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - 00:55