Is there life on the Red Planet? Has there ever been?
Much speculation surrounds Monday’s planned Mars statement by NASA (11:30 AM EDT), which the agency says will reveal “a major science finding”.
Among those speaking at the briefing will be Alfred McEwen from the University of Arizona in Tucson, who in July published a study on slope activity in Mars’s Gale crater, and Lujendra Ojha, a PhD candidate from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta who has collaborated with McEwen and has also studied the possible water activity on Mars.
That leads many to believe that the mystery to be addressed is the phenomenon known as ‘recurring slope lineae’, the dark tendrils observed on the planet’s surface during warm seasons, which some observers speculate is evidence of water.
Those hopes have been given a boost by the attendance of scientist Ojha. He’s the one who first came up with the theory that Mars has liquid salt water flowing through it during warmer months.
Water is one of the key requirements for life, and such a discovery would significantly boost chances of alien beings on Mars. Until this year, it was thought Mars was too cold to host water and it had only ice. But in April it was learned the soil was damp with liquid brine, which lowers the freezing point.
That discovery came from NASA’s four-wheel drive Curiosity Rover, which is currently probing the barren landscape of the planet.
Recent images from Curiosity also showed dark and basaltic rocks on the planet, leading to speculation that the planet may have even once been covered with water – making it biologically more similar to our world.
US science writer Kevin Kopas said of that discovery: “This new evidence comes in support of speculations by many scientists that Mars was once an Earth-like planet, with continents divided by oceans, both teeming with microbial life, at least.
“The large bundle of images that Curiosity has taken on Mars, which have been made available through NASA’s website, has already prompted researchers to speculate the existence of microbial fossils and of strange alien objects.”
NASA’s previous announcements have revealed groundbreaking findings, such as in July of the discovery of Earth-like planet Kepler-452b, outside of the Solar System.
Monday’s briefing will be broadcast live on the NASA web site.