Searching for Life on Mars

By Vandya Rai

APRIL 29, 2022

Eternal Wasteland

This freezing planet with an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide is also bombarded by Sun’s radiation. Life as we know it cannot exist on Mars. But, was it always this way?

Image Source: NASA

Earth’s Close Cousin

Over a billion years ago, water flowed abundantly on the surface of Mars. It even has a rocky surface and its days are of similar length to our home planet.

Image Source: NASA

Liquid Evidence

In 1976, the Viking landed on Mars and found barren river valleys and sediment, giving root to the idea of water on the planet. Under these conditions, scientists thought, life could have been possible.

Image Source: NASA

Signs of Ancient Life

In 1996, a fragment of a Martian meteorite called Allan Hills 84001 had the likeness of microscopic fossils of bacteria inside it. Some scientists say that it might be signs of one of the oldest life forms, while others remain skeptical.

Image Source: NASA

Curious for Clues

In 2019, NASA’s curiosity rover detected large amounts of Methane gas emitted from specific underground locations, which is predominantly produced biologically. This could be another sign of life.

Image Source: NASA

Drilling Diligently

The Curiosity Rover, after spending over 9 years digging into Gale Crater, a one-time lake on Mars, found a mixture of carbon isotopes, which is known as the elemental backbone of life.

Image Source: NASA

Mysterious Coating

NASA’s new rover, Perseverance, found rocks with a purple, iron-rich coating on the Jezero crater. Such coatings are often observed where rock-eating microbes thrive.

Image Source: NASA

Persistence is Key

Perseverance, which landed in 2021, is now on the hunt for past life on Mars. It will collect soil and rock samples for future return to Earth. Will this new mission tell us more about our galactic neighbour?

Image Source: NASA