The Mars lander InSight will sit on the surface and measure marsquakes, heat transport, and the planet’s wobble, all to help us understand the internal structure of the Red Planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Life on Mars? NASA’s Curiosity rover discovers ancient evidence on the red planet

Contributed by
Jun 8, 2018

There have been some new scientific discoveries on the age-old question of whether there truly is life on Mars, and the upshot is, there very well could be – or at least, could have been.

While it's still all arguably hypothetical at this point, some of the world’s top scientists have gotten very excited. The evidence (via NBC News) has been found by NASA's Curiosity rover, a robotic vehicle that has been conducting experiments and exploring Mars for almost six years now.

Curiosity recently discovered carbon-containing compounds in an ancient lakebed, as well as shifting levels of the organic molecule methane in the Martian atmosphere. Given that here on Earth, methane is largely created by plants and animals, some scientists are suggesting this means the same can be said for the methane on Mars, although it can also be produced by non-biological processes too.

There have been hints of this kind of life before (with a previous discovery of liquid water,) but this new discovery in over three-billion-year-old sediments on Mars is said to be the most convincing evidence to date.

Curiosity’s project scientist, Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement: “The chances of being able to find signs of ancient life with future missions, if life ever was present, just went up.” Meanwhile, Inge Loes ten Kate, an astrobiologist at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said: “Both these discoveries are breakthroughs in astrobiology.”

In short, it seems there’s still not 100% proof of life, but with the new evidence, it certainly can’t be ruled out. Of course, we’ve been discussing the idea of hypothetical life on Mars for what seems like forever, or at least since David Bowie first sang about it in 1971. Last year, some scientists even argued that discovering life on the red planet could end up giving us the plague. Hopefully that won’t happen, but you know what they say, be careful what you wish for.

What are your thoughts on these new discoveries? Give us your own theories in the comments below.

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