After NASA announced the huge discovery of water on the Red Planet, everyone wants to know when we're going to get a ruling on life.
The groundbreaking discovery by NASA of water on Mars is exciting one for sure — but when will we know whether or not there is life on the Red Planet?
Give it seven years, argues a recent Examiner.com report, which points to the fact that there are two missions to Mars between now and 2022.
While we do not lack for orbiters and probes both above and on the surface of Mars, they haven’t been able to turn up any sign of life, but they are not necessarily suited to doing so anyway.
The finding that not only there was water in Mars’ past, but today there is season flowing water has raised some excitement in the scientific community that maybe, perhaps, some type of microbial life exists on the planet that has found a way to survive the harsh climate and environment.
But there’s only one way to know for sure: get equipment down there that is capable of poking around in these spots for life.
The announcement on October 2nd that salt streaks have been discovered that indicate melting or flowing water is the best sign yet that life is somewhere on the planet. But the question is, when will we know for sure?
NASA will be sending a new rover in the next few years that will be similar to the Curiosity Mission. It will be launched in 2020 and it will be specifically tasked with looking for signs of biological life in the planet’s past. Two years later, a joint Russian and European mission called Exomars will head to the Martian surface to drill into the soil and see if it can find signs of life.
Now, that’s not to say that we’ll know for sure if life isn’t found by then that it doesn’t exist on the Red Planet. But considering these rovers are suited specifically to look for life, and we know generally where to look, this may offer our best chance yet until we send humans to Mars to find life on the planet, or at least evidence that life once existed.
If mankind were to find life on the planet, it would perhaps be the most groundbreaking discovery in scientific history.
The idea of life on Mars has long inflamed human imagination. It was all the way back in the 19th century when American astronomer Percival Lowell said he thought he saw canals on the Martian surface, which he saw as evidence that an advanced civilization may live there. As we now know, that’s not the case, but he may have been on to something with regards to life at least.
Mars was the home of the invaders in the HG Wells novel War of the Worlds, and many Hollywood science fiction films have featured Martian invasions.
It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that orbiting spacecraft disproved the notion that there were canals on the Red Planet, instead depicting a rather desolate world, according to a BBC report.
Still, the scientific community eagerly awaited soil sample tests from Viking 1, and one of them even indicated a possible signature for life. Unfortunately, this was later disproven.
Ever since then, Mars has entered our psyche as nothing more than a barren wasteland, but perhaps this latest discovery indicates there more to this planet than meets the eye.
The seeds of this idea were first sown in the 90s and into the early 2000s as data came back indicating that Mars might actually some ice under the surface, and may even have a magnetic field like Earth. In fact, findings indicated that Mars wasn’t too much unlike our own about four billion years ago, and could have even had a thicker atmosphere at one point with its own oceans.
So now, the scientific world waits with bated breath as NASA, Europe, and Russia work feverishly on new rovers that could answer this question for us finally. Does life exist? If it doesn’t, did it exist at one point? Or has Mars always been a barren wasteland, home to nothing but rocks and dust, with a little bit of water thrown in?
Within seven years, we may finally have our answer. And no matter what it is, it will be extremely interesting to the scientific community — and it most likely won’t dampen the enthusiasm to find intelligent life somewhere in our universe other than our own.