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Is there life on Mars?

The possibility of the existence of life elsewhere than on Earth has always fascinated. Inhabitants of Mars, Martians, in particular, have been the subject of many stories.

 

Nowadays

A warmer and wetter planet Mars could harbor conditions for the emergence of life. On Mars, the absence of plate tectonics or metamorphic processes has protected the ancient rocks. We could therefore find today traces of past life.

Recently, methane has been detected on Mars using instruments on Earth and on board Mars Express, but also by Curiosity, the NASA rover that landed on the planet in August 2012.

All these measurements show strong fluctuations of methane over time. However, it is unclear whether the methane is the result of life, past or present. On Earth this gas comes to 95% of microorganisms.

The question remains open. To answer it, scientists look for indirect evidences:

 

To answer these questions, scientists develop experiments that are performed on Earth, in orbit around Mars on an orbiter or on Mars itself, onboard rovers.


ExoMars
ExoMars mission, credits ESA.

The next mission to Mars is a Russian-European mission ExoMars.

Generally speaking, the question of life on Mars is intrinsically linked to that of life on Earth. What is life and how did it appear? In this context, the BIRA-IASB team participates in the PlanetTopers project, Planets: Tracing the Transfer, Origin, Preservation, and Evolution of their ReservoirS. It consists in an Inter-university attraction pole addressing the question of habitability in our Solar System.

 

To take things further:

  • Young sun, early Earth and the origins of life, M. Gargaud, ed. Springer

 

Enjoy your free time:

  • The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells ;
  • The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury ;
  • Contact, R. Zemeckis ; adapted from a novel of the same name by C. Sagan
  • Mars Attacks!, T. Burton
  • ...
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