New Research Shows Mars was once Habitable
First Person view of Martian Surface
New findings from the scientists at the University of Arizona-led Phoenix Mars Mission believe that water once flowed and the Red Planet was once habitable.
The scientists have published their findings today which states that the planet may have once supported simple forms of life. Apparently, the ancient soil at Mars’ northern pole may have been able to do so millions of years ago.
Among the things that were discovered by the Phoenix unmanned craft are water in the form of ice, various minerals and a salt called perchlorate that microbes on Earth use as an energy source. All these are part of the basic ingredients that support life.
“This is what we went looking for, and we found it,” said UA Proffesor Peter H. Smith, who was the lead scientist on the five-month mission, which ended last November.
Another recent breakthrough in the Mars exploration was the fall of ‘snow’ or crystals in the planet’s northern pole. This in addition to the fact that Mars also has cirrus clouds much like those found on Earth which are present between 3 and 6 miles above the Martian surface that caused this snowfall of sorts.
Presently the polar region is too dry and cold to support life. A layer of ice runs beneath the soil and temperatures drop to 128 degrees below zero.
But scientists have found signs that suggest liquid water was once present and had changed the soil’s appearance. The experiments performed by the rover detected various minerals such as sodium, magnesium and chloride as well as percholate salt.
Although the unmanned rover is not designed to detect microorganisms (both a positive and very basic indication of life) the analysis of the environment suggests that life is possible, furthermore, this analysis will lay the ground work for future missions.
NASA is preparing to send another robotic mission to Mars by 2011 called the Mars Science Laboratory. The future missions will aim to scrutinize the soil to detect the presence of carbon-based organic molecules, the chemical building blocks of life.
The stationary craft has been on Martian soil for over five months since landing on May 25, 2008, digging up and analyzing the soil till it lost contact on November 2, 2008 amid a dust storm.
Smith is of the opinion that 5 million years back the planet exhibited a different tilt which made the planet warmer and wetter than the cold, dry, frigid place that it is today.
Scientists believe that a time may come when Earth will no longer be hospitable and it may be necessary to colonise our near neighbor to perpetuate the continuity of the human race. And at that time, this research and many more to follow will give future generations the knowledge they need to know before shifting to the Red Planet.