Mars: New study suggests life may not survive on the Red Planet

14 Mai, 2020, 12:29 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Mars: New study suggests life may not survive on the Red Planet

An analysis of new rock samples taken from NASA's Curiosity rover uncovered evidence of clay minerals on Mars, suggesting the presence of water from a large, ancient lake. The recent study combines information gathered from the Mars-studying spacecraft and additional data collected with the help of atmospheric models that could define the brine model.

Mars is so cold and dry that if a liquid water droplet is placed on the planet, it would almost instantaneously either freeze, boil or evaporate away.

A wide range of salts have been detected on Mars, with carbonate and sulfate salts being the most abundant.

Why it matters: If these brines on the Red Planet are not habitable for microbes as we understand them, then scientists may not need to worry about potentially contaminating these regions during future missions, opening up new avenues of exploration on Mars.

"In my opinion, and that of the science community, the chance that rocks from Mars that are millions of years old will contain an active life form that could infect Earth is extremely low", Hubbard said.

Brines, also known as super salty water, got lower freezing points and can stay in liquid for a more extended period. Her study suggests that microbial life could be supported in nightly brines that are likely widespread through the shallow loose surface deposits known as Martian regolith.

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While pure liquid water is unstable on the Martian surface, models showed that stable brines can form and persist from the equator to high latitudes on the surface of Mars for a few percent of the year for up to six consecutive hours.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated byKarl Tate), a book about the search for alien life.

In the hyperarid conditions of Mars, coupled with its crippling freezing temperatures, it is just too much for microorganisms to survive, argue the authors and as such it means these brines can not be classified as "Special Regions" according to Planetary Protection policies, as they can not sustain terrestrial life.

Researchers found that the temperature of the Martian saltwater is quite low for life to thrive.

Reference: "Distribution and habitability of (meta) stable brines on present-day Mars" by Edgard G. Rivera-Valentín, Vincent F. Chevrier, Alejandro Soto and Germán Martínez, 11 May 2020, Nature Astronomy. "We needed to know the seismic properties of the iron-sulfur alloy thought to make up the core of Mars".

If Martian brines are completely uninhabitable though, these restrictions could be loosened.

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