There could be life on Mars, and it could be located some two meters beneath the red planet's surface.
According to scientists, cosmic rays can help feed potential alien life existing beneath the surface of Mars.
The Viking mission, including its two landers, Viking 1 (1976–1982) and Viking 2 (1976–1980), were tasked with exploring the surface of Mars and detecting possible biosignatures on the surface of the red planet.
Although the data gathered by the rovers had caused excitement initially, scientists concluded that both Viking 1 and Viking 2 failed to detect biological activity from the samples that had been collected from the surface of Mars.
Nonetheless, the reexamination of results from the Label Release experiment has revealed that the possibility of extant life cannot be ruled out based on Viking results. Therefore, a researcher at the Center for Space Sciences at the University of New York in Abu Dhabi proposes how it currently is possible for life on Mars to thrive.
The constant bombardment of galactic cosmic rays (GCR) on Mars could provide the energy necessary to catalyze organic activity below its surface.
This is the conclusion reached by Dimitra Atri, a scientist at the Center for Space Sciences at the University of New York in Abu Dhabi, Dimitra Atri. The study was published in Scientific Reports.
The research argues that conditions below the unexplored surface of Mars could support life, something that has not been detected on the surface.
Throughout the years, landers, rovers, and orbiters on Mars have discovered increasing evidence to suggest the existence of a plentiful watery environment on ancient Mars, raising questions whether an ancient Mars may have met the necessary conditions for life as we know it to exist on—or beneath—its surface.
“Presently, there is no evidence of any biological activity on the planet’s surface; however, the subsurface environment, which is yet to be explored, is less harsh, has traces of water in the form of water–ice and brines, and undergoes radiation-driven redox chemistry,” the researcher writes.
The erosion of the Martian atmosphere caused drastic changes in its climate; the surface waters disappeared, reducing the habitable spaces on the planet, leaving only a limited amount of water near the surface in the form of brines and water ice deposits.
Life, if it ever existed, would have had to adapt to harsh modern conditions, which include low temperatures and surface pressure, and high doses of radiation.
Mars’ subsoil has traces of water in the form of water ice and brines, and it undergoes radiation-powered redox chemistry.
Using a combination of numerical models, space mission data, and studies of deep cave ecosystems on Earth for his research, Atri proposes mechanisms through which life, if it ever existed on Mars, could survive and be detected with the ExoMars mission from the European Space Agency and Roscosmos.
Atri hypothesizes that galactic cosmic radiation, which can penetrate several meters below the surface, could produce chemical reactions that can be used for metabolic energy by existing life, and host organisms using mechanisms seen in chemical and radiation environments similar to those on Earth.
“It is exciting to contemplate that life could survive in such a hostile environment, just two meters below the surface of Mars,” said Atri.
“When the Rosalind Franklin rover aboard the ExoMars mission (ESA and Roscosmos), equipped with an underground drill, launches in 2022, it will be capable of detecting existing microbial life and hopefully provide some important insights.”
Whether this is the case, and whether there is life on Mars is something that we could soon find out, as more countries are sending scientific instruments to the surface of Mars.