While mankind is eager to set foot on the Moon again, astronomers and scientists are already cooking up plans to take humanity to Mars. Getting there is an incredibly challenging calling, but mankind’s willpower, our technology, and knowledge about Mars will make it easier than ever before.
Although we won’t probably land mankind on Mars in the next few years, we are in the process of making it happen, and part of that process is to explore Mars with robotic spacecraft.
NASA has recently sent its Perseverance rover to Mars, and the spacecraft carrying the first “drone” to fly on another planet will get there in February 2021.
The Perseverance Rover, Curiosity’s predecessor, will land on the remains of an ancient Martian lake, with the aim of gathering information to understand what Mars was like about 4 billion years ago when it was a young planet. Is there life on Mars now, and was there ever?
There is a possibility that Mars, in its early days, was warmed by volcanic gases that thickened its atmosphere and caused the melting of the Martian polar ice.
Asteroid impacts could have triggered mega-tsunamis of up to 274 meters that flooded the planet’s boundaries, and there is even evidence that a vast ocean covered its valleys.
During Curiosity’s 8-year expeditions through Gale Crater, the rover discovered sediments that would confirm the presence of water on the planet’s surface for a few million years.
Although it also detected key organic compounds for life, it should be noted that the surface of Mars is exposed to solar and cosmic radiation, reducing the probability of complex and multicellular life.
Our study of Mars has greatly increased our knowledge about one of the solar-systems most Earth-like planets.
We have discovered that Mars lost its magnetic field billions of years ago. Without this protective field that shields the planet from the solar wind, the Martian atmosphere was shed over time, leaving a thin layer of its past skies.
These changes have rendered Mars inhospitable, at least on the surface, for billions of years. Earth, on the other hand, is able to replenish itself thanks to tectonic activity, atmospheric changes, and the ingenuity of life.
Missions to Mars have developed innumerable opinions about the red planet, but have never found clear signs of alien life.
“If there is life on Mars, it needs at least some liquid water. The surface of Mars is very dry. Incredibly dry. If there is life on Mars, it would be deep underground,” this is according to planetary geologist Dawn Sumner, who theorizes that if there is life on Mars, it is likely not anywhere near the surface.
Was Mars habitable?
If we are to understand whether Mars was habitable, we need to understand what happened to it in the distant past which caused its atmosphere to disappear. When they were still infant planets, both Mars and Earth were wrapped in two protective blankets: a relatively thick atmosphere and a strong magnetic field. Earth has held on to both conditions. Mars no longer has any.
If there is life on Mars now, where is it?
One of the places in the solar system most likely to host life is Mars. Although we’ve not found conclusive evidence of life on Mars to date, chances are it is nonetheless there. Maybe to find out whether Mars is currently home to alien life, we need to search its interior.
There is some evidence that liquid water is encapsulated in underground reservoirs on the red planet, so perhaps there are ecosystems there that do not need sunlight to live.
If these habitats exist, they are beyond the direct range of our current vehicles and landers.
How habitable was Mars, billions of years ago?
We know that Mars had a watery past, and that it was likely covered by rivers, lakes, and even an ocean. It is of our current belief that where there is water, there likely is life. Whether this was the case on Mars is to be seen. However, scientists agree that this is the kind of aquatic environment that could support life, and we definitely know that Mars was abundant in liquid water once.