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August 10, 2022

 

Is there life beyond Earth?

Is there life beyond Earth? I would say yes, I think it’s very likely that there is life beyond earth or there was at some point in time. This doesn’t have to be extraterrestrial beings either this can include water, or plants, any form of life. Mars is our strongest contender and proof at the moment. Mars has shown multiple signs of once having life, more specifically, nature. And of course some may say that other planets are unable to support life because they don’t meet conditions needed for life. But, even if only one planet, I think there is substantial evidence for life beyond Earth.

I think when we hear of life beyond Earth our mind goes straight to aliens or intelligent life on different, or unknown planets. But, life beyond Earth entails something a lot more simple. Life is defined as “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.”. Life beyond Earth can entail things like the previous or current existence of water, or plants, or even insects as small as brine. So this broadens the discussion a lot more.

As for our current progress on the search for extraterrestrial life Mars has been a strong contender for a while. Mars has a few key aspects that may suggest there once was life there. As of now we have found “dried-up riverbeds and evidence of ancient glacial events”. We’ve also found “solid sub-surface ice, snow, and even frozen surface water on Mars in real-time.”. The curiosity rover has also made strides for signs of life on mars. For instance, clay. On the surface, not great. But, this is actually huge. “Clay is a good signpost towards evidence of life because it’s usually created when rocky minerals weather away and rot after contact with water — a key ingredient for life. It is also an excellent material for storing microbial fossils.”. “Clay is a good signpost towards evidence of life because it’s usually created when rocky minerals weather away and rot after contact with water — a key ingredient for life. It is also an excellent material for storing microbial fossils.”. Though Mars appears cold and dry now, this was likely not always the case. NASA has theorized that Mars may have once held active volcanoes, and flash floods. So though maybe not the best place for humans if there was water there, life was there. 

Now some may say that other planets are unable to support life because they don’t meet conditions needed for life. That Venus for instance could likely never hold life because of all the greenhouse gases. Earth is the only planet that can sustain life. And this may be true but even if not human life, if somewhere like Mars even once held life we have a new world of possibilities with modern technology. Just because we haven’t made such strides yet doesn’t mean we can’t in the future.

I do believe that there is life beyond Earth, just maybe in a different way than we may think. Mars has shown us incredible things and possibly past signs of life. If Mars even once held life we have made a huge stride. Still the search is not over and there is still so much to uncover.


Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars: What does this mean for the future of Mars research?

On February 18th 2021, the Perseverance rover first touched down on Mars’s surface, this NASA mission was sent specifically to look for signs that may indicate that microbial life once existed on Mars, this mission is the first of its kind since the 70s.

The Perseverance rover will spend most of its time focusing on the surrounding area of Jezero Crater, which many studies have led scientists to believe that this crater was in fact a prehistoric lake that was fed by a river.  As Perseverance continues its journey around the crater, it will soon run into a delta on the other end of the crater.  On earth, deltas contain rock and mineral deposits, therefore by studying Jezero’s delta we will be able to reveal the evolution of the planet over time, along with revealing how the water may have moved on the surface, studying this delta can also reveal clues on what past life forms could have called the “Red Planet” home.  Perseverance will be spending around one Martian year, or 687 earth days studying and exploring the Jezero Crater.

How will the Perseverance rover collect samples on mars? Well, Perseverance is equipped with a 7-foot arm that enables it to reach out and collect samples, as well as it is equipped with a drill used to extract core samples, about the size of chalk, from rocks, After the sample is collected it will go through a rotating mechanism which will move the sample inside the rover where it will photograph and sealed to be dropped off at a safe recovery location.  Unfortunately, these samples may not make it back to Earth for another 10 years or so when the retrieval mission for these samples will be sent.  

Perseverance won’t only be studying past life though, it will also be exploring the potential for future life on the planet.  These studies will test the possibilities of producing oxygen and carbon dioxide, which will be beneficial once the time comes to send astronauts to Mars, because it will increase the possibility of making breathing possible on Mars.

This mission also featured a second vehicle along with Perseverance named Ingenuity.  This vehicle is a small drone helicopter with two important tasks.  Ingenuity will provide the people on earth with colored photos of Mars, as well as it will test the possibilities of powered flight in the martian atmosphere.  Mars has one-third the gravity of earth but compared to our atmosphere it is 99 percent less dense than that of Earth’s.

Ingenuity isn’t the only vehicle that has the ability to send pictures of the Martian surface to earth, Perseverance is equipped with 23 cameras and has already sent back high definition 360 panoramic images of the surface.   These images have been sent back to Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) by thousands of photos, some of them can be found in the public archive.

Work cited

“Stuff You Should Know ” Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars.” BTW, 3 Mar. 2021, mhebtw.azurewebsites.net/?p=8288.

https://www.youthvoices.live/tag/mars-exploration/