New Discoveries from NASA – Was There Ever Life on Mars?

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On Thursday NASA had made an announcement, stating that a recent finding seems to confirm that there used to be life on Mars, and maybe even still is. According to scientists, this is the best piece of evidence that have been found so far.

The breakthrough discovery was made with the help of NASA’s Curiosity rover, which was charged with a mission to explore the Gale Crater and Martian geology and climate. While examining the 3.5 billion-year-old bedrock of an ancient lake, Curiosity came across soil samples containing organic molecules. This indicates that back then, favorable conditions on Mars might have allowed life to emerge and populate the planet. After such discovery, scientists believe that chances to find even more conclusive proof in the future just went up.

Another clue for the possible existence of life on Mars provided by Curiosity was an analysis of the red planet’s atmosphere, confirming that the level of methane changes with seasons. Since on Earth most of methane found in the atmosphere has an organic origin, it’s not that crazy to suggest that this might be the case on Mars as well. Methane levels were measured over a period of 4.5 years, which showed an increase of methane during late winter in the southern hemisphere and late summer in the northern hemisphere. Seasonal peaks of methane are caused by the change of temperature, the hotter it is, the more of it is being released into the atmosphere. This doesn’t prove anything yet, and scientists are both optimistic and cautious.

The soil samples seem to point at existence of life on Mars in the past, and methane observations give us a clue that some forms of life can still be present on the red planet. Most likely we will need a more advanced spacecraft and some soil samples or rocks available for tests on Earth, and only then we will be able to confirm if life on Mars exists or not.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.