The video below illustrates some of the many, many problems that must be overcome before humans can actually live on Mars. At the same time it illustrates some of the problems that indigenous life on Mars would have had to overcome.
It’s become pretty clear that life, as we know it, does not exist on Mars. On Earth, life is ubiquitous. You would be hard pressed to find anywhere on Earth that does not have some form of life. Hot volcanic vents, deep in the ocean are teeming with life. A lake discovered under 800 feet of ice in the Antarctic is apparently a highly desirable neighborhood for some species. There are bacteria that live in tar pits and see asphalt as a food source.
However, on Mars we’ve so far found nothing; not a microbe or a mite, or a bit mold or fungus or anything else that might indicate current or past life. It is true that we haven’t examined very much of Mars yet. It is also true that the sites we have examined have been carefully selected, in part, because of the likelihood that they support or once supported life.
Obviously Mars is a different world and could host something that falls outside of life “as we know it”. However, a new report published in Nature Geoscience casts even more doubt.
Mars has generally been seen as an possible host for life because it is relatively near to the sun, very cold but not permanently frozen and because it has water. There is obvious evidence that water once flowed on Mars. If the most recent study is correct however, the periods of water flow may have lasted only a few years, during times of significant volcanic activity.
That, still, does not mean that life is impossible. There are many desert species that appear only after significant rainfall. If, however, the wet periods are short and thousands of years pass between one water flow and the next it would be difficult for life to evolve in the first place, much less continue to exist.
The next likely step is taking samples of the actual water to see if it holds any evidence but as candidates for hosting extraterrestrial life go, Mars is rapidly slipping down the list. All of this is very sad because, the cost of space exploration is high and finding life next door to study would have been really, really convenient.
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