Life on Mars?
For years, planet Mars has been in the NASA spotlight. The Red Planet has been explored as images, atmoshpere samples and samples of various surface formations have been collected to continue research in labortories here on Earth. The year of 1965 marked the beginiing of the Mars Program, and ever since rocket born cameras, spacecraft voyages, and other advanced technologies have been a part of the explorations. The Mars Program has been dedicated to finding what the planet experienced since the begininning of its formation as well as all it has to offer.
Much debate has been raised about whether the program should be continued and if anything beneficial could even come out of the studies. Some argue that the funding should be cut and instead used to help relieve a portion of our nation’s debt. However, what these critics don’t understand is that the Mars Program is on a mission to answer a long lived question, “Could the planet Mars sustain life? ” The question is complex, but it could lead to the answer of whether of not the Red Planet could be the future for humanity.
NASA has been carefully conducting explorations and studies of Mars changes overtimes to find any signs of the presense of life’s necessities. These include water, oxygen, and multicellular organisms. It is said that if any of these are found, Mars past can further be studied to see if its present conditions can be our future. Currently, Earth is the only planet we know of that contains life and has the characteristics need to sustain it. Some have suggested the possibilities of other planets being able to sustain life and scientiests have been questioning data thorougly to test the chances of another source of life on them.
Perhaps these planets or masses are outside our solar system. They could lie thousands of light years away on a different side of the universe. However, Mars has been labled as a prospective planet that could sustain life. This theory has been supported based on the data collected during exploration missions. This data has allowed scientists and researchers to conclude that the Red Planet, in many ways, is similar to Earth.
As recorded on www. mars. jpl. nasa. gov, “Like Earth, Mars has polar ice caps and clouds in its atmosphere, seasonal weather patterns, volcanoes, canyons, and other recognizable features. Based on these similarities, specific studies have been designed to further research on the possibilities of life on Mars. To begin with, some scientists have suggested their belief that ancient or even present Mars possibly had a presense of liquid or that it could be preserved in the subsurface today. Some studies have been conducted and reported that the water on Mars appears to have been salty, therefore, limiting its ability to support life.
According to an article, Mar’s Water Appears To Have Been Too Salty To Support Life (www. sciencedaily. com), “… ptimism about the prospect of life–now suggests the water was more likely a thick brine, far too salty to support life as we know it. ” On Earth a majority of our water (the oceans) is salt water. The difference is that we also have large expanses of fresh water bodies of water such as the Great Lakes. Humans have often tried to drink the water in history, however with large amounts of salt concentration in the water, the result has been illness and even death. This is the same for all mammals. Pure water is the very least that would be necessary for life to be sustained.
As the water possibilities is studied on Mars, scientists and researchers need to consider the properties of water. The previously cited also states, “Not all of Earth’s waters are able to support life, and the limits of terrestrial life are sharply defined by water’s temperature, acidity, and salinity. ” Studies show that water was present on Mars possibly billions of years ago, however, its salinity commonly would’ve exceded the levels in which terrestrial life could’ve been sustained and thrived. “People have known for hundreds of years that salt prevent microbial growth.
This analysis provides much detail describing what exploration missions need to be searching for in the possibilities of water on Mars. Even if water is present, it may have a salt concentration at such a high level that specific forms of life may not be able to exist. Secondly, for life to exist the proper atmosphere must be present. Earth has a unique atmosphere, for it is composed of various gases. The two major gases present are oxygen and nitrogen. 78% of Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen. This significant gas is essential for life to exist, as it is the basic ingredient for amino acids which make up protiens.
Future missions have been designed to specifically have instruments that can detect organic nitrogen. “Scientists are convinced that if there’s life on Mars, it will contain nitrogen. ” (www. sciencedaily. com; Epic Search for Evidence of Life on Mars Heats Up With Focus On High-Tech Instruments). If nitrogen is present in Mar’s atmosphere, it will provide a strong piece of evidence to support the research to answer the suggestion of life on the planet. Also, oxygen must be present for respiration. Not only does mammals need oxygen to breathe, but plants do as well.
Oxygen is also present is our water. Only a small portion of living things don’t require oxygen to life, and these are anaerobic organisms such as bacteria. Most organims require oxygen to live and can only survive a few minutes without it. If oxygen is found in atmospheric samples, scientists would have an answer to how organisms could breathe. By analyzing the contents of the atmosphere, the first step can be taken in the breaking down of what a planet must have in order to sustain life. Last but certaintly not least, when exploring Mars microrganisms should be looked closely for.
Microgranims are ” very tiny one-celled organisms, viruses, fungi, and bacteria, and are found everywhere in the world. They are found in all living things, plants and animal. ” (http://library. thinkquest. org/CR0212089/micr. htm). If life exists on Mars, then so will microrganisms. The catch to these organisms is that they can be found in multiple environments, including salt water, regular water (pure), and in all other organims. A researcher from the University of Arkansas conducted an experiment by growing methane-producing microoggranims under some of the conditions found on Mars.
Because Mar’s has such a cold surface tempurature, the organisms were grown in these extreme temperature ranges. The soil in Mar’s has been found to share characteristics with ash from volcanoes, so ash as well as carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and water were used while growing these microbes. The results of the experiment were successful! “The methanogens grew successfully in the Mars soil simulant, obtaining all the macro and trace minerals they needed to survive. ” (Bacteria Grown in Simulated Martian
Environment; www. sciencedaily. om) Furthering the experiment, it was also found that these microorganisms were able to grew even with a limited water supply in various water contents that could be found on Mars. From the data collected for the experiment, it is possible to conclude that it is possible to find microorganims on Mars. The question is, where are they? Or are they even present? Today, scientists are coming closer to finding the answers they have been longing for and are finding that a one time during the planet’s history, some form of life was most likely present.
This could mean that microorganims are waiting to be found. If the water or soil was tested and this organism was found, the answer to life on Mars would be answered. These small organisms are a basic unit of life and can survive among the most extreme weather conditions. During explorations and sample testing in labs, scientists need to thorougly search for microoganims. If they are present, so may other forms of life. The Mars Program is desperately searching for answers to their questions.
Billions of dollars have been spent and thousands of new technologic advancments have been made to test the possibilities of life on Mars. Missions have been specifically designed to continue the search and they won’t be giving up any time soon. The future at NASA already has been planned out with more missions to land on the Red Planet. During each exploration particular signs can be found to detect life. The analyzing of water, the atmosphere, and the search of microorganims can provide the answers they have been longing for since 1965.
The current data is constantly tested as well as the new. Jeffrey Bada, Ph. D. stated, “The bottom line is that if life is out there, the high-tech tools of chemistry will find it sooner or later…. It certainly is starting to look like there may be something alive out there somewhere, with Mars being the most accessible place to search. ” Scienists have confidence in their search and exploration designs. You never know, if even the smallest form of life is found, Mars may be the future of humanity.