Science X-Files

Past Life Reference On The Red Planet – Mars

NASA- the name is enough to excite many, inspire much and think on lines of planets, interstellar travel and the like. The world is abuzz with the programs and projects of NASA to explore life on Mars- the Red Planet. In fact, it is in relation with the same objective that a number of explorations are pursued on Mars.

So, there has been the wheeled trek on this Red Planet, by NASA’s Spirit. It is this which initiated an instigation of the past life present on Mars. This has been reported by the scientists associated with Arizona State University.

In order to aid the study of the case, the researchers have correlated the study of the “Home plate” of the Spirit, with the attributes found within hot spring discharge channels in Northern Chile. The latter is called EI Tatio. Home Plate in turn is a plateau of layered rocks that were explored by robot during the initial phase of its third year on Mars.
What did the EI Tatio structure imply?

spirit-possible-mars-biosignatures-1Home Plate opaline silica (left) occurs in nodular masses with digitate structures that resemble those at El Tatio (right). Credit: ASU/Ruff & Farmer

There was pursued field work in Chile by the ASU team. The team consisted of Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer of the School of Earth and Space Exploration associated with the University. In accordance with their work the nodular and digitate silica structure at El Tatio are very similar to those on Mars. In fact, these also include complex sedimentary structures which are produced by an amalgamation of biotic and abiotic processes.
What was the course of the Spirit?

It was the month of January in 2004, when Spirit landed on Mars. It was a few weeks shy of the time, when Opportunity landed a different location on the same planet at a different location. The task assigned to these rovers was to look for signs of past water activity in the course of their mission. This mission was originally designed for 3 months.

mars-rover-spirit-biosignature-1Spirit imagery shows opaline silica nodular outcrops adjacent to Home Plate showing typical stratiform expression. White outline highlights nodular silica outcrop. Rover wheel tracks are roughly 1 meter apart. Rolling wheels did not deform the roughly 6-inch-high high outcrop (lighter tracks) compared with the inoperative dragging wheel in a later traverse (darker track). Credit: ASU/Ruff & Farmer

It was in here, that the Spirit came across outcrops and regolith in Gusev crater. Regolith is made of opaline silica. The acumen for the same was associated with two views; the first one involved leaching of fumaroles related acid sulfate and the second involved precipitation from hot spring fluids. In accordance with the study-“However, the potential significance of the characteristic nodular and [millimeter]-scale digitate opaline silica structures was not recognized,” as notified by Ruff and Farmer.

What is the similarly between the conditions in and Mars?

The environment of El Tatio is an amalgamation of high elevation, low precipitation rate and high mean annual evaporation, high ultraviolet irradiance and diurnal freeze thaw. These conditions are very similar to that of Mars. In fact, it is these similarities that indicate to the probability of Martian silica structures fabricated in a similar manner.
It was, in May, 2009 the Spirit effaced on the Mars. By the year 2011, there has been announced a completion of Spirit’s mission. The suggestions of the ASU researchers are that there can be pursued a mission with a rover which has special instruments to aid in the process.

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