Astrobiologist Says Life Could Still Exist on Mars

This article was originally published in Sputnik on 21 May 2019.

(Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Humans have been searching for signs of alien life throughout the universe, including on the Red Planet. Some astrobiologists theorise that ancient Mars presented an even more suitable environment for life than the younger version of the Earth.

Assuming the Red Planet was once a habitat where life was able to thrive, this means it still has life, even if it is hiding somewhere underneath the planet’s surface, claims Michael Finney, co-founder of The Genome Partnership, a nonprofit organization that runs the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conferences.

“If there were life on Mars, it may have moved around, it may have gone into hiding a bit, but it is probably still there,” claims the scientist.

Barren as it is today, four billion years ago, the Martian surface was a wetter world, abundant with rivers, lakes and vast oceans.

However, Mars lost its habitability together with the loss of its global magnetic field, thus making way for harmful charged particles from the Sun to remove Mars’ atmosphere.

The process that transformed Mars into the dry and cool planet it is now was observed and registered by NASA’s MAVEN orbiter.

Even though there is no running water on its surface, water could actually exist in the underground subsoil, with the possibility of a vast lake underneath the planet’s South Pole, according to collected data.

Some astrobiologists pronounce Mars to have been a more conducive cradle for life than early Earth, with an increasingly agreed upon scientific hypothesis claiming life was brought to Earth by falling meteorites composed of Martian rocks.

Current research shows an absence of evidence for life in the Martian air, but NASA not long ago observed some strange clues, as Curiosity Rover discovered signs of methane inside a vast chasm.

NASA’s rover has been examining the Gale Crater since 2012, and identified that baseline methane mass in the crater’s atmosphere has seasonal periods.

Earth’s atmospheric methane is generated by sources including microbes and other such organisms. Thus, the theory has developed that there might be alien life on Mars.

In truth, there could be other explanations, such as abiotic processes due to the reaction of hot water with specific rocks.

The Red Planet’s methane plumes leaked out from underground, according to NASA data, but there is currently no way of determining how long the gas stayed trapped below. Even if the Mars methane is biogenic, those creatures that generated it could long be dead.

Michael Finney of The Genome Partnership, however, refuses to lose hope, saying: “If Mars had life 4 billion years ago, Mars still has life.”

“Nothing has happened on Mars that would’ve wiped out life”.

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