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If there really is life on Mars, how would it be? NASA carries out life-detection drill!

Last Updated: Saturday, February 27, 2016 - 13:38
If there really is life on Mars, how would it be? NASA carries out life-detection drill!
Image courtesy: NASA

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: It's a well-known and understood fact that NASA has been studying and researching far and wide to convert their dream of a Mars mission into reality.

Sending humans on Mars requires extensive research and NASA has been making tireless efforts to do just that.

From sending astronauts to spend a year in space to see how the human body responds to long-duration spaceflights, to studying images sent in by the two rovers on Mars – Curiosity and Opportunity, the US space agency has been keeping busy on the Mars front.

In a fresh research, NASA scientists reached what is also called the driest place on Earth – the Atacama Desert in Chile – to study how living beings survive under harsh conditions, that is without water and intense ultraviolet radiation, also hypothesizing about the possibility of life on Mars. This is because most life in the extreme Atacama Desert exists as microbial colonies underground or inside rocks.

In the same way, scientists believe that if life on Mars exists, they may be found below the surface where negative effects of radiation are mitigated, in the form of organic molecules known as biomarkers. However, acquiring samples from the Red Planet would require human footfall on Mars as well as the ability to identify a location of high probability for current or ancient life, place a drill, and control the operation robotically.

As per NASA, despite being considerably warmer than Mars, the extreme dryness the soil chemistry in the Atacama Desert are remarkably similar to that of the Red Planet. This provides scientists with a Mars-like laboratory where they can study the limits of life and test drilling and life-detection technologies that might be sent to Mars in the future.

Dr. Brian Glass, a NASA Ames space scientist and the principal investigator of the ARADS project, told NASA that, “Putting life-detection instruments in a difficult, Mars-analog environment will help us figure out the best ways of looking for past or current life on Mars, if it existed. Having both subsurface reach and surface mobility should greatly increase the number of biomarker and life-target sites we can sample in the Atacama.”

First Published: Saturday, February 27, 2016 - 11:20

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