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Could there be Life on Mars?

The orbit of Mars, which takes it twice as far from the Sun as Earth, is thought by some scientists to be at the edge of a "goldilocks" zone where liquid surface water could exist if Mars had a thicker atmosphere.
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  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2014
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Out of all planets in the solar system besides Earth, life on Mars seems most likely, even though the chance is small, probably less than 1%. Astronomers have speculated about the possibility ever since they saw "canals" on Mars with early telescopes, as well as glimpsing the presence of ice caps. The flurry of excitement that Mars' "canals" generated upon their discovery gave birth to the popular culture notion of Martians. It eventually became obvious that these canals were natural formations, but the speculation around life on Mars continued anyway.

The direct search for life on Mars began in the 1970s, when the Viking landers were sent there, with their primary mission being the analysis of Martian soil for microorganisms. They found none, including no organic molecules at all. A more recent lander, Phoenix, arrived on Mars in 2008 with more sensitive equipment and repeated the tests, again finding nothing. Extensive testing will likely have to wait until the human visitation and long-term colonization of Mars, which might not happen until 2050 or longer.

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Even though no surface life on Mars was detected in these missions, these findings are not definitive. Some scientists used similar techniques to test for life in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, which are known to possess microorganisms, and they came up negative, suggesting that different approaches will be required to fully verify the Viking and Phoenix results. Regardless, these tests would have missed life beneath the surface. In 2007, it was calculated that DNA or RNA based life would not be able to survive for long less than 7.5 meters (25 ft) below the surface due to the high influx of cosmic rays. Therefore, the most likely location of life on Mars is still unchecked.

The most definitive piece of evidence that we currently have that there may indeed be subsurface Martian microorganisms is the observation of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. On Earth, methane almost always comes from a biological source, but other processes can create methane -- usually volcanism or hydrothermic activity. A few other rare nonbiological processes can create methane, such as serpentinization. The presence of methane in the Martian atmosphere indicates that something is producing it continually, as methane breaks down quickly in the Martian sun. Mars' lack of volcanism or hydrothermal geysers makes it unlikely that methane was generated in this way. Thus, it seems like the source is either some rare nonbiological process or subsurface methanogenic bacteria.

In the end, the answer is that we are still uncertain.

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IceCarver
Post 4

Discovery of an extra extraterrestrial being or Alien of any type would most likely mean the destruction of humankind.

I don't think that it is within the capability of the human mind to be able to accept an outside living existence from our own world. Paradigms would be shifted and people's worlds would be turned upside down at the thought that all they had ever known as true in their life is completely different from what they were taught and told growing up.

I don't have faith in humankind could peacefully accept the existence of extraterrestrial being. It's sad but true. Maybe some day our culture and society will become advanced enough that if something on this groundbreaking level of thought did occur we could handle what the consequences would be to our thinking.

CoffeeJim
Post 3

But what if there was life on Mars, though? Imagine the possibilities and the things that we would learn from a different culture and different people in species.

It might be scary at first, but I think that in the end we would find that coexistence was a possibility. That is of course to say that humans could restrain themselves from trying to take the resources of any new Astro neighbors that we might have.

I wonder if they have any good sport games to play?

NightChef
Post 2

Personally, I think it's nothing but science fiction fairy tales to expect there to be life on Mars. If it was a real possibility it would've been over a long time ago we would've known if aliens were actually inhabiting the red planet.

While there are some very cool life on Mars posters out there, the fantasy of their actually being alien lifeforms in our solar system is simply unreasonable.

Modern science almost essentially and completely negates any wild fantasies that science fiction writers might have about how colonies could exist there.

Burlap
Post 1

It's all about the water. If there was actually water on the surface of Mars then there could be life sustaining there. Any kind of other life patterns might be very different from what we consider life here on Earth.

This difference may be hard for us to comprehend now but it is possible that with the future development of technology, we may see life in some form on Mars.

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