Is There Life On Mars

And Why Can’t NASA Find It?

With all the news about water being found on Mars, when (oh, when) will NASA find evidence of life there? Why has NASA, seemingly, not come up with a definitive result that says once and for all, Yea or Ney to the question? What’s taking so long???

Jeremy Hsu asks for

The discovery last week of water ice just under the surface of Mars has researchers buzzing, given that water is a key ingredient for life. The finding, by the Phoenix Mars Lander, is the most recent hint that the Red Planet might be habitable to microbes.

But in the parlance of treasure hunters in the movie “National Treasure,” this looks a lot like just another clue that will lead to other clues, and still more clues. The big question still hangs over NASA: Is there life on Mars? And just as important: Can NASA ever find the evidence for it?

And Jeremy Hsu answers.

NASA has long taken an incremental approach to searching for biology, with “follow the water” as a driving strategy. That means, perhaps to the frustration of some, that the current Phoenix lander mission and the twin rovers on Mars are not even designed to detect Martian life.

Frustrating, isn’t it? It seems odd that, if a little green Martian came up and bit Spirit on the nose, NASA wouldn’t have a clue what happened.

The problem is, of course, that no LGM is going to do that. And the microbes that might be there (and have an infinitely greater chance of existing there than any LGM) are hard to distinguish from – dust. That’s especially true if all we have left are the by-products of life long gone.

[T]he melting and refreezing of water could also erase records of previous life or organic material, scientists say. That presents a dilemma between searching for existing life versus past life.

Clearly, finding life on Mars (or, of equal scientific import, the complete lack of life) is not easy. It would be, in fact, one of the most important discoveries since fire. There are things that might make the search easy, however – shortcuts of sorts.

[S]cientists have also examined gullies where liquid water may have bubbled up recently in the planet’s history. Finding an active hot spring could lead to finding life similar to extremophile bacteria that can thrive under intense conditions.

“Hot springs are at the top of my list,” said Bruce Jakosky, a geologist at the University of Colorado who has worked on Mars missions. “Organisms might not survive and thrive on the surface, but recently exposed hot springs might bring something up from beneath.”

That’s why Phoenix is near the North Pole of Mars – we’re trying to look in places where the conditions are most favorable, not for life, but for us to find it.

The questions we should ask the moment life is recognized, are things like “Is the biology like ours? – Did it come come the Earth, or did life on Earth possibly come from Mars or did it come about independently” and “Did life in this solar system come from outside the solar system?”

Always more questions than answers.

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Science

4 Comments on “Is There Life On Mars”

  1. Here’s my rant on this.
    TPTB have been desperately trying for a long time to keep the lid on what they know, and that is that the universe is teeming with life and the entire solar system is too, also littered with evidence of past civilizations that have come and gone in grand cycles.
    But they’ve also realized that they can’t keep the lid on this forever. Too many players now. It’s been a good scam- keeping the herd ignorant and selling their fairy tales to us as we occupy ourselves with their nonsense and never dream of how sweepingly awesome life really is, concurrent with how stunted we’ve been. So they’ve tried, for decades, to take control of disclosure and have given us tiny little baby steps toward recognizing we aren’t the excepional ones after all.
    The (intentionally ambiguous) Viking data, Martian meteorite fossils, Panspermia, unexplained photo releases, that Vatican scramble, now garden soil, all meant to set the stage for the big news, that they found microbes on Mars.
    The impact can’t be overstated. The overlords know it will be shattering news to the dumbed down herd because it fundamentally changes the equation, even though recognizing little bacteria is laughable when there are forests and yes, lakes on the planet. But that step is a huge biggie that the manipulators need to control closely to keep us in line, so they advance the idea with glacial velocity to minimize it’s impact on their jealouly guarded societal control.

  2. joe Says:

    Nolo – I sure would like to know how you know that the universe is teaming with life. Are you sure that you’re not making an assumption in there somewhere?

    And – trust me on this one – the NASA guys couldn’t engineer a good conspiracy if you paid them. The way it’s done now, is that, even when the press isn’t in the room (like they still are for the Phoenix mission), 20 engineers are sitting in a control center when the data comes in, 20 academics are watching remotely from their offices, the picture comes in raw, jpeg format, the computer processes the color, they all look at it and go “Ooooohhhh! What’s that???” and it’s posted to the internet. The results from gas chromatographs and Wet Chem-Labs indicate (they don’t say – they indicate) “Carbon” and “Argon” and “Nitrogen”. Not “Live” or “Dead”, unfortunately.

    That’s the price paid for trying to find stuff remotely, from 10s of millions of miles away.

    Thanks for reading, nolo.

  3. Paul Says:

    I’m just hoping that some conclusive evidence (for or against life) is found within my lifetime or I’m going to die really, really disappointed.


  4. joe Says:

    Yeah – me too. I think the smart money says our grandchildren will see the evidence, not us.

    I’m haunted by the Fermi Paradox – “Where are they?”

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