Astronomy Science X-Files

Life On Mars: A Potential Reality

In the ancient past the planet Mars had the potential to support life for long periods of time as we know it. As the observations by the robot curiosity sent to Mars by NASA suggested that the life on this planet may have existed at stretch for hundreds of millions of years.

Since its landing on the Gale Crater of planet Mars on August 2012, the rover Curiosity has been able to sample and survey a large number of rocks which were of different kinds and which were found over a varying elevation levels of around 650 feet (200 meters). These samples mainly represent a huge time span of more than tens of millions years. All the information collected by Curiosity pointed out clearly that though the environment present within the Gale Crater has changed to a large extent during these long years, it has never been able to change in a manner that would life forms to be formed and thrive in the crate. These facts were clearly stated by mission scientists of the hover on December 13th in a news conference which took place during a news conference held here at the American Geophysical Union’s meeting of the annual fall.

The observations made by Curiosity were based on the data collected after drilling into rocks and then studying the sample collected. These observations allowed the mission scientists to come to a conclusion that the Gale Crater had nurtured a potential habitable ecosystem of lakes and streams about a billion years ago.

The observations were able to put forward a clearer picture to the scientists about how the environment of planet Mars changed over time. This analysis also included the observations and experiments which curiosity had performed at the foothills of Mount Sharp which is at a height of 3.4 miles or about 5.5 kilometers from the center of the Gale crater. The initial experiments done at lower elevations by Curiosity provided many valuable insights. It led to the observation that, the lake had been filled with fresh and neutral ph water in its initial years. With time the water in the lake had become more acidic and after few more years the water had become salty. As the level of groundwater had risen gradually the lake of Gale Crater might have dried up and refilled several times.

Although many changes had taken place in the environment of Gale Crater the area still had remained hospitable for all types of microbial life, as clearly stated by the scientists. The area was deemed as very conducive for habitation by various forms of life for long periods of time.

Also the experiments carried out by Curiosity’s showed a complex variety of minerals in the area at the various drill sites. These minerals varied from samples of clay and magnetite present in the lower areas of the crated to even hematite which was present in the higher regions. Even boron was also detected by Curiosity which was the first incident when such a metal had been discovered. These all findings were good indicators for hospitability of the planetas suggested by the NASA scientists.Silica which were expert at preserving many ancient microbes in our planet was found in abundance on planet Mars.

These observations though do not provide a clear picture about the fact that any organisms might have lived on Mars but they do add fuel to the future life hunting missions which are going to be undertaken by NASA such as the 2020 Mars rover.

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