Martians Living on Mars?
Mars is not a hospitable place, the low pressure, low temperature and high concentration of CO2 means that humans would quickly suffocate and freeze, worse then the effects of being at the top of Mount Everest. So what makes us think that life can exist on Mars at all?
Life on Mars could be different to the life we see around us every day, but not so different to the types of life we can find in extreme locations around the Earth. These Extreamophiles can survive in areas where most other life can not. By looking at what limits these forms of life can survive on Earth we can start to look at if such life could survive on Mars.
The Search for Life
Based on these extreamophiles scientists can begin to look for the chemical signs that life exists on Mars today. The lifeforms on Earth that can survive in Mars conditions are known as Methanogens. This is because they consume Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen and produce Methane and Water as waste.
As part of the ExoMars mission, the European Space Agency Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) is currently looking for life signs in the Mars atmosphere and on its surface.
Its The Fine-Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector (FREND) is scanning the surface to see if it has traces of Hygrogen in minerals or water, to a depth of one meter below the Mars surface.
Also its The Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery (NOMAD) and The Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (ACS) instruments are taking the most accurate measurements of the Martian atmosphere, right down to knowing all the particles in a sample of a billion molecules.
Where future ExoMars missions will include a Rover that will autonomously search Martian soil for life.
The ExoMars spacecraft is almost complete. A joint mission between ESA and Roscosmos, it begins with the launch of the ExoMars orbiter in 2016 and carries an aerodynamically designed capsule containing a robotic lander.
Further Materials, Resources & Information
Below you will find more resources and external websites related to this lesson.
- Phys.org/news/2013-01-earth-bacteria-survive-extremely-pressure.html – University of Florida researchers have discovered for the first time that some Earth bacteria can live under the same low pressure conditions found on Mars.
- PBSKids.org/lifeboat – PBS Kids Games, try Lifeboat Mission to Mars
- Windows2universe.org/cool_stuff/alien/make_alien.html – Make your own Alien using this constructor App, build your own E.T.
Full STEAM Ahead – Space Exploration Education Grant
This lesson has been produced as part of the Full STEAM Ahead Project with the UK Space Agency. We are one of eight organisations across the UK to be awarded to deliver and produce exciting new education outreach activities and projects. The UK Space Agency are delighted to be able to support these projects, which represent a diverse selection of cross-curricular activities that meet it’s education objectives in encouraging children to take up STEAM subjects, raise awareness of careers in space-related areas, and raise awareness of the UK’s exploration programme.