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Considering the Possibility of Life on Mars

Essay 2003 8 Seiten


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Considering the Possibility of Life on Mars

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Considering the Possibility of Life on Mars

In the early 1900’s, people looked into the night sky and believed there was, or at the very least had been, life on Mars. Intricate canal systems were thought to be seen crisscrossing the planet, and were used as evidence of a wondrous civilization.

But, Mars was millions of miles away, and when we got closer to the Red Planet, starting with NASA’s Mariner 10 mission, we learned much more. Although some still believe they have seen “an ancient city the size of Los Angeles with a geometry of streets and cross roads” (“The Cydonia Complex”) or have spotted ancient pyramids and a gigantic face in the Cydonia Complex, scientists discount these reports. Rather than an amazing series of agricultural waterways, or buildings that would rival Egypt, Mars is only a giant desert, which could never support life, or could it?

One of the first pieces of scientific evidence that suggested the possibility of life on Mars was “an ancient meteorite [that possibly] contains fossils of bacteria from Mars.” (Cowen) Tiny worm-shaped features were seen in the Mars rock (numbered ALH84001), as well as carbonate globules with magnetite within them, which often can be seen as indicators of bacteria here on Earth. Although these signs seemed to be very similar to an Earthly aquatic bacteria, other scientists have discredited this evidence, noting that there are times when magnetite is formed inorganically, within certain geologic conditions. They note “that the chains could have formed in ALH84001 by a blast of heat, perhaps when the rock was chipped off Mars.” (Cowen)

So the mystery remained, had life developed on Mars? Could it possibly still exist there? Scientists have concluded that life could not exist without liquid water. Thanks to technology and the few successful unmanned missions to Mars, such as NASA’s Mars Odyssey and Pathfinder spacecrafts, scientists are able to determine if there is liquid water on Mars.

It’s now a commonly accepted fact that there is water ice on Mars. By using Odyssey’s “gamma ray spectrometer suite, [… it] discovered vast amounts of hydrogen in the form of water ice trapped beneath the Martian surface.” (Hardin & Neal) Now, all that needs to be found is liquid water, and the chances for life on Mars would increase exponentially.

Gilbert Levin, of Sperix Incorporated, who took part in analyzing the data retrieved from the 1976 Viking Labeled Release experiment, had interpreted the data retrieved as a positive indication of life on Mars. However, other scientists refuted his claim, suggesting that oxidants had created a false positive. They added that the Martian atmosphere precluded any chance of liquid water, therefore life. New data, however, has led Levin to conclude that



ISBN (eBook)
361 KB
Institution / Hochschule
University of Phoenix
2006 (September)
Considering Possibility Life Mars



Titel: Considering the Possibility of Life on Mars