Tag Archives: mars

Possibility of Life in Mars

Mumma, Michael J. in the article “The Search for Life on Mars” states that because of considerable similarities of earth and mars, it may be possible that life exists in some forms in Mars. Although, up to now, there has been no evidence to prove the idea of existence of life in Mars, recent discoveries propose that Mars was once habitable.



Credit: Wikimedia

Scientists have conducted several investigations and researches in order to prove the possibility of life in Mars. Finding factors that are vital for the possibility of life, has been the most important goal for NASA. For example, NASA has done many studies by “Mars curiosity rover” and “Mars opportunity rover”.
For this purpose, scientists use an approach that includes 19 or 20 abiotic factors, with an emphasis of availability of liquid water, presence of nutrients, temperature, sources of energy and protection from cosmic radiation.



                      Curiosity Rover
                    Credit: Wikimedia

Some liquid water may flow on Mars surface, this can happen only under very specific conditions. Due to the atmospheric pressure of Mars water evaporates or freezes quickly. Therefore, it is very hard to find liquid water on Mars.

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                          Water Flowing on Present-day Mars
                                                 Credit: NASA

As we know existence of elements including: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus and sulfur are necessary for life. Many. Studies have shown that these elements are present in surface of Mars in some rocks. In turn , this can lead to an increase in possibility of life.

Another parameter that contributes to the possibility of life Mars is energy needed for metabolism. This can either be met by solar energy or geochemical energy.

Temperature also plays an important role in possibility of life. Because of loss of atmosphere in Mars, temperature has decreased significantly during the time.

Finally, because there is no global magnetic field in Mars to protect the planet from the life-threatening cosmic radiation, existence of life may not be probable.

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                                      Wind and radiation on Mars
                                                     Credit: NASA

To sum up, because there is lack of factors that are essential for existence of life in Mars, the idea of existence of life in Mars has a long way to go. However, with advancements in technology, we can hope to discover more evidence needed for life in Mars.

Kamyar Kazemiashtiani

Life on Mars? – The Key to Survival on The Red Planet

Science is all the rage in the film industry these days, with films like Interstellar proving to be massive hits both critically and in the box office.  Consequently, The Martian is hoping to capitalize on that success. This science fiction adventure is based on a best-selling book written by Andy Weir and features Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a botanist turned astronaut who finds himself stranded on Mars after an intense dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet. The film follows his quest to survive alone on a barren wasteland and his attempts to contact Earth and seek rescue.

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Credit: 20th Century Fox

While scientifically feasible and chock full of technical jargon, The Martian is a fictional story by all accounts. After all, humans can’t be expected to grow potatoes inside a tiny habitat for long term survival, as Mark Watney does in the film. But is life on Mars a reachable short term goal? At least one team of researchers thinks so, and they believe they have unearthed the key.

Cyanobacteria By Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc. (Author's archive) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc. (Author’s archive) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Astrobiologist Cyprien Verseux and his team at NASA’s Ames Research Center have discovered a way to use cyanobacteria in order to sustain a long-term human presence on Mars, which was previously thought to be unrealistic due to the amount of resources that would have to be sent.

The idea of cyanobacteria in outer space research is not new. Humans have already been using microbes to search for life on Mars, as illustrated in the video below:

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Credit: Open University

Cyanobacteria not only have the ability to survive and grow in Mars simulated conditions, as determined in a study by Karen Olsson-Francis, but they can also fix carbon from carbon dioxide (CO2) and create useful nitrate from dinitrogen (N2), which Mars has plenty of in its atmosphere. While we can’t actually survive simply off of eating cyanobacteria due to their lack of vitamin C and overabundance of vitamin A, they can be used to feed microorganisms, which can then be utilized to convert biomass into potentially fertile soil. Aquaculture is also a possibility, as crustaceans and shellfish are already feeding off of cyanobacteria as a main food source.

Furthermore, Verseux also explored the prospect of using cyanobacteria to produce oxygen, finding them to be even more efficient producers than fully grown trees. Cyanobacteria were even able to produce components of biofuel that could be used to power vehicles and equipment as illustrated in a study by Daniel Ducat; however, further advances must be made for either of these applications to come to fruition.

Often times we watch these ambitious science fiction movies thinking that they’re simply the pipe dream of an idealistic filmmaker. But just as screenwriters are dreaming up new frontiers to impress and amaze audiences, scientists are working diligently in the background to make those frontiers a reality.

To infinity and beyond!

Mars Exploration Rover By NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mars Exploration Rover
By NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Tim Cheung