Life on Mars: Study suggests ‘chemistry of life’ CAN lurk beneath Red Planet’s surface

A groundbreaking new method to confirm whether aliens exists on Mars has been mooted by some of the world’s leading scientists. The search for basic forms of alien life closer is increasingly shifting its focus from the Martian surface to what lies below. A team of renowned space experts now believe the absence of surface water does not rule-out the potential for alien life deep in the planet’s sub-surface biosphere.

Dr Manasvi Lingam, assistant professor of astrobiology at Florida Institute of Technology, the study’s lead author said in a statement: “We examined whether conditions amenable to life could exist deep underneath the surface of rocky objects like the Moon or Mars at some point in their histories and how scientists might go about searching for traces of past subsurface life on these objects.

When one moves to deeper regions, the upper layers exert pressure and thus permit the existence of liquid water in principle

Dr Manasvi Lingam

“We know that these searches will be technically challenging, but not impossible.”

He added liquid water can still even exist despite initial negative findings, saying: “Surface water requires an atmosphere to maintain a finite pressure, without which liquid water cannot exist.

“However, when one moves to deeper regions, the upper layers exert pressure and thus permit the existence of liquid water in principle.

“For instance, Mars does not currently have any longstanding bodies of water on its surface, but it is known to have subsurface lakes.”

The proposed new study would examine exactly how “thick” the subsurface region is.

This is an area considered by scientists as the best candidate for conducting the search for alien life and liquid water.

Another key factor in the proposed plan concerns whether the inherent high pressures could prevent anything living from surviving.

But Dr Avi Loeb, Professor of Science at Harvard is optimistic life really could be found in the Martian interior.

He said: ”Both the Moon and Mars lack an atmosphere that would allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces, but the warmer and pressurised regions under the surface could allow the chemistry of life in liquid water.”

An upper limit on the amount of hardy life that could found deep underground was another focus for the study.

Dr Loeb said he was surprised by what the estimates they arrived at.

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He added: ”We found that the biological material limit might be a few percent that of Earth’s subsurface biosphere, and a thousand times smaller than Earth’s global biomass.

“Extremophilic organisms are capable of growth and reproduction at low subzero temperatures.

“They are found in places that are permanently cold on Earth, such as the polar regions and the deep sea, and might also exist on the Moon or Mars.”

However, the researchers were at pains to point out the extreme difficulty in conclusively proving their theory.

Astronauts exploring Mars for alien life would require cutting-edge machinery not yet designed.

Dr Lingam said: ”There are many criteria involved in determining the most optimal locations to hunt for signs of life.

“Some that we have taken into account for subsurface searches include drilling near to the equator where the subsurface biosphere is situated closer to the surface, and seeking geological hotspots with higher temperatures.”

Speaking in terms of machinery, Dr Loeb added: “We need to be able to drill tens of kilometres under the surface of Mars, and without geological activity exposing these deep layers, we will not be able to explore them.”

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