Scientists have detected methane on Mars, a good indicator for potential microbial life. But is there microbial life on Mars?
After the 2013 discovery of a methane source near Gale Crater by the Mars Express spacecraft, scientists confirmed their findings and published it in the Nature Geoscience journal. The Mars Express probe measured 15.5 parts per billion in the atmosphere above the crater. And the presence of methane was confirmed after 24 hours by NASA’s Curiosity rover.
Moreover, the discovery of methane one decade ago in the Martian atmosphere was debatable because they thought that the methane was produced biologically by microorganisms, or by some abiotic geochemical reactions.
Also, the researcher Marco Giuranna from “Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica” and the author of the study told that the discovery of methane on Mars is essential.
The source of methane on Mars might be microbial life… Or not?
Finding methane on Mars could indicate a microbial life. How is that possible? Here on Earth, the methane is produced by methanogenic microbes. Even if the methanogenic bacteria are not present, methane can be provided by abiotic processes, and those are for sure applying to Mars. Also, the existence of methane, even if it is not by a direct bio-signature, can add a plus to the habitability on the planet. Some microbes use methane as a source of carbon and energy.
Nevertheless, to say, the existence of methane trapped on the surface of the planet could constitute an essential resource for future human activities on Mars. Also, Giuranna says that methane is a suitable propellant for returning to Earth and as a fuel or chemical, industrial supply for sustaining a human presence.
However, the European Space Agency has told in February that even if is no liquid on Mars, the imaging equipment has shown evidence of dried up rivers, suggesting that the planet once has been home to the simple organisms.