Astrogeology Science Center

Microbes on Mars: Wanted Dead or Alive

21 July 2017

Scientists want to find microbes on Mars whether they are dead or alive! The discovery of microbes is evidence that Mars harbors life or did so in the past. Using an avalanche of scientific data acquired from the red planet, scientists have theorized and provided compelling evidence that life may have existed on Mars, likely based on comparisons to life as we know it on Earth. The objectives of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission may confirm or deny that life did or did not ever exist on Mars. Only how do scientists know where to look to solve this puzzle once the robotic geologist reaches the red planet? What type of data products do they use to determine likely places where microbial life may lurk or the dead rest?  Don't miss out.  Robin Ferguson, USGS scientist, shares some answers with the community in the excerpt and linked abstract below.

Possible microbes

Image Credit: NASA

Excerpt: “The Mars 2020 rover will explore a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favorable for microbial life, and investigate Martian rocks for evidence of past life. Throughout its investigation, it will collect samples of soil and rock, and cache them on the surface for potential return to Earth by a future mission. A diverse set of 8 candidate sites are currently being considered as potential landing sites, including Columbia Hills/Gusev, Ebserswalde, Holden, Jezero, Mawrth, NE Syrtis, Nili Fossae, and SW Melas. Columbia Hills/Gusev was the location where the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit landed and operated from 2004 to 2010 [1-2]. Three sites (Eberswalde, Holden, and Mawrth) were previously evaluated as candidate Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) sites [3-4].”

Read more of the abstract