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Can Mars Rovers Detect Life on the Red Planet?

Can Mars Rovers Detect Life on the Red Planet?

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from: Tanya Banner

Red Mars (artist’s impression). © imago / tuulijumala

Many rovers are looking for life on Mars – but no clear evidence has yet been found. A new study shows why that might be.

Madrid – Is there life on Mars? Researchers have been asking this question for decades. The US space agency, in particular, is trying to find an answer with the help of several space probes and the Mars rover – to no avail so far. It has long been proven that Mars was once a wet planet on which life could have been possible.

But definitive proof that life once existed – or even exists today – no one has been able to provide. Only organic material has been discovered on Mars so far, but that alone is not evidence of life on the Red Planet. A new study now shows that the missing discovery may not be due to the fact that there is no life on Mars. A research group theory from the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid: Instruments sent to Mars so far may not be able to detect life there.

Is there any life on Mars? Rover tools restricted

The research group led by Armando Azua-Bustos began the study with this finding in Commercial newspaper Nature Communications published. The team conducted research in the world’s oldest desert, the Atacama Desert in Chile. There is the Redstone Formation, which is geologically similar to Mars: there are sands and rocks rich in hematite and mudstone, and the area is often used by astrobiologists as a model for Mars.

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The researchers examined samples of the redstone formation with instruments currently in use aboard the Perseverance and Curiosity rovers on Mars or that will be used on the Red Planet in the future. The result was sobering: at best, finding the microorganisms was extremely difficult—in most cases they weren’t detected at all. However, researchers have only been able to detect small amounts of the material using ground-based instruments that clearly indicate life.

Mars exploration devices fail to detect life on Earth

“Our analyzes using test instruments that are or are being sent to Mars show that while the mineralogy of the redstone formation is consistent with that detected by ground-based instruments on the Red Planet, similar small amounts of organic matter are present.” Materials in Martian rocks are difficult or impossible to detect, depending on the instrument and technology,” the study’s research team wrote.

Azua-Bustos is emphatic: “In particular, the possibility of receiving false negative results when searching for life on Mars demonstrates the need for more powerful tools.” The research group has another suggestion and writes in the study: “Our results underscore the importance of returning samples to Earth in order to clarify whether life eventually existed on Mars.”

Life on Mars: The Rosalind Franklin rover is drilling two meters deep

The researchers also place their hopes in European ExoMars rover “Rosalind Franklin”, which is not scheduled to leave for the Red Planet until 2028 at the earliest. Although the instrument that will fly to Mars with the rover can only detect some potentially interesting molecules after treatment with a strong solvent, the rover has one major advantage: it aims to dig up to two meters deep into the Martian soil and from that Depth sampling.

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Azua-Bustos explains in one communication. “So our rover instruments will have more chances of being discovered.” Another research team put forward this theory some time ago, and a team from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is backing Mars for a similar reason – the “Rosalind Franklin” rover.

In addition, it is planned to return Martian soil samples to Earth. The space organizations NASA and ESA are working together on it, and the Perseverance rover has already collected the first samples. (unpaid bill)