Might we be Martians?

September 29, 2015

Watch out Mars, here we come. Maybe. Someday.

NASA used to play down the notion that the arid, desolate landscape of Mars could ever possibly be home to future life. However, the recent announcement confirming the flow of liquid water on Mars is causing its planetary science division to reconsider.

In a recent paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists discovered waterlogged salt molecules, known as perchlorates, salty enough to withstand the below-freezing temperatures of the chilly red planet.

The evidence was first noted in 2011 by Dr Alfred S McEwen, a professor of planetary geology at University of Arizona. Photographs taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed dark streaks descending the slopes, canyons and mountains. The streaks lengthened during the higher temperatures of summer, faded as temperatures cooled, then reappeared the next year. The average temperature on Mars is -56 degrees Celsius but can top 20 degrees C during the Mars summer.

Don’t pack your bags yet even though summer on Mars might prove considerably more pleasant that an English summer. Currently NASA has intentionally barred sending their rovers to areas most likely to support life due to the concern that they might be harbouring Earth microbes that could contaminate Mars. That’s good to hear. We’ll do well not to harm the environment of another of our galaxy’s planets just yet.

Click here for the complete New York Times article.

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