Mars Results – Finding Life Is Harder Than Expected

Like, you thought it would be easy???

Some results from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (and it’s Shallow Radar instrument) indicate that Mars is colder and harder than previously thought. The implication is that any microbial life would have to be deeper under the surface to survive than otherwise thought. At least, if they need water at all.

The radar picture also shows that the boundary between the ice layers and the surface of Mars underneath is relatively flat (bottom white line on the right). This implies that the surface of Mars is not sagging, or bending, under the weight of the ice cap — and this, in turn, suggests that the planet’s lithosphere, a combination of the crust and the strong parts of the upper mantle, is thicker than previously thought.

A thicker lithosphere on Mars means that temperatures increase more gradually with depth toward the interior. Temperatures warm enough for water to be liquid are therefore deeper than previously thought. Likewise, if liquid water does exist in aquifers below the surface of Mars, and if there are any organisms living in that water, they would have to be located deeper in the planet.

This doesn’t mean it’s not there. The results just make it harder to detect, especially the way we’ve been trying to, on the surface.

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