A lucky accident aboard the Curiosity Rover has confirmed that there is life on Mars. A life-detection experiment conducted by the Viking lander in 1976 generated a pattern of responses that fulfilled criteria for the presence of life on the planet, but the results were dismissed by JPL experts. Over the years that followed, this conclusion came into serious question, and a paper published in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences in March of 2012 presented convincing evidence that the earlier analysis of the data was flawed. Now the leak in Curiosity’s wet chemistry test has confirmed the presence of gasses that can only be created by living organisms.
This is not a morality tale about planetary preservation – and what happens if you don’t take good care of your literal ground of being. But after years of assuming that Mars is and always had been inhospitable to life, scientists at NASA are now convinced that an ocean once covered 20% of the surface of Mars. In some places, the ocean was likely a mile in depth. And according to Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at Edinburgh University, “The longer water persists on a planetary body in one location, particularly if there is geological turnover, the more likely it is that it would provide a habitable environment for a suitable duration for life to either originate or proliferate. An ocean would meet this need.”
What happens when something observed at great distance defies all current expectations and explanations? What happens is an array of strong reactions, including this one from Planetary scientist Todd Clancy of the Space Science Institute – "I don’t think it’s real. … Basic physics says this can’t occur."
And yet, it appears that it has occurred – more than once. It’s just that it wasn’t previously noticed until one day in 2012, when amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester, Pennsylvania was reviewing footage of Mars that he’d captured in his private observatory.
Mars has been hitting the headlines lately as scientists reveal more and more about the Red Planet’s past. But could this latest piece of evidence really be it? Have scientists really found solid proof of life on Mars?
Strange methane emissions have been detected by NASA researchers in data collected by one of the rover Curiosity’s instruments, and scientists believe that they are being caused by life forms, most likely bacteria. On Earth, life forms are the primary producers of methane, although there could be other possible explanations.