Life on Mars: Alien microbes could be lurking beneath Red Planet’s surface, expert claims

NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars

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Although Mars is a seemingly lifeless, cold and bone-dry world today, this has not always been the case. Some 4 billion years ago, scientists believe Mars resembled a young Earth and was home to a humid climate and flowing surface waters. If this was the case, it would not be farfetched to assume simple microbial life emerged in these primordial waters.

And there is a very small – though not entirely unlikely – chance some of that life has survived till today.

Many scientists speculate about the conditions under the planet’s surface, comparing them to the Atacama Desert in Chile – the driest place on Earth.

The Atacama is home to many resilient microbes in clay-rich deposits that have adapted to the inhospitable conditions.

Similar conditions may be present on Mars and, if so, NASA’s Perseverance rover could be the one to find it.

The Mars rover touched down on the planet this Thursday, February 18, after a six-and-a-half month journey through the vacuum of space.

Perseverance touched down in Jezero Crater – an ancient basin once believed to have flowed with water – where it will analyse rock samples for chemical evidence of past life.

According to Dr Natalia Zalewska, a planetologist at the Space Research Centre at the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN), the NASA rover is the right tool for the job.

She said: “The rover will be equipped with instruments for the study of life, examining artefacts that come life that may have once been there or even smoulders under the surface.”

Perseverance touched in Jezero after a nerve-wracking “seven minutes of terror” during which the rover had no input from the outside world.

Because of the distance between our world and Mars, there is an 11-minute delay in all communications.

NASA’s rover, therefore, had to rely solely on a pre-programmed landing sequence modelled on the landing of the Curiosity rover in 2012.

But the landing was a success and scientists worldwide are now excited about the potential discoveries that lay ahead.

Dr Anna Łosiak a planetary geologist with PAN said: “It is one of the best places on the whole planet to study whether life ever existed on Mars.

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“If I was a Martian organism and wanted to pick where I could live, then I would pick the crater’s region.

“It is, therefore, a superb place from the perspective of searching for life.”

Perseverance’s mission is presently pencilled in for one Mars year – 687 Earth days – although the rover will likely trudge on for many more years to come.

The rover will also collect and safely deposit promising rock samples NASA and European partners will attempt to recover and bring back to Earth by the 2030s.

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