Given its mandate as the chief agency to undertake space programs and research, NASA has often found planet Mars as the main item of exploration and research in the recent years. Mars is the third planet away from the sun, and nearest to the earth, hence shares a few common features that have made astronomers have a belief in a possibility that life exists on this planet. According to the article published on the Indiatimes online newspaper on March 5, 2015, NASA has now embarked on another mission based on earth but targeting Mars. This is to say that the agency will now explore the earth’s driest parts that resemble the environmental conditions experienced in Mars so that it can unravel the technologies that could be used to detect life on Mars. One of the harshest environments that has been chosen for this is the Atacama Desert located in the South America, precisely in Chile. It is believed that in such a severely desert climate, life exists deep underground within the rocks in the form of microbial colonies. Therefore, if life exists in a harsh climate like that of Chile’s Atacama, it could be the same on Mars which is often cool with severely dry surfaces full of rock material. Astronomers who are trying to gather up pieces of evidence believe that life could have or be existing on the red planet beneath the rocks in the form of organic matter or molecules. A team of about 20 researchers was deployed to undertake this exercise under a project dubbedARADS (Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies). High-tech devices resembling robots are then used to dig out the organic matter or biomarkers.
Astronomers are so passionate about discovering life forms on Mars in particular, unlike other planets due to various reasons. Most importantly is the close resemblance between Earth and Mars. The two continents have common characteristics, for example, cold climates that are common in earth’s deserts. The proximity of the red planet to the earth is also behind the increased spatial trips to explore its characteristics. However, scientists have studied Mars to find out that it depicts distinctive characters, for example, unavailability of plate tectonics and lack of drifts compared to earth, which experiences a continental drift due to the existence of multiple plate tectonics. Earlier investigations by NASA revealed that there is a possibility that there was ancient water on Mars plus other signs of ancient life such as a biosphere and organic carbon matter(“Chile: NASA Searches for ‘Life’ in Mars-Like Desert”). To reinforce the argument of ancient water existence on Mars are satellite images that show lakes and possible water bodies that have already dried up. An article by Tom Risen on US News published on September 28, 2015, explained that an unknown catastrophe must have caused Mars to lose its water surface and a warmer climate it one had. There are traces of frozen water, hydrated salts and signs of erosion in some hilly places on Mars, as well(“NASA: Water Means Life on Mars Is Possible – US News”). The idea of a possible water existence is actually the basis of the current relentless efforts to establish if the planet can support life. According to UCSB ScienceLine, an evidence of bacteria believed to over 3.6 billion years old was found on meteor remains that hit the uninhabited continent, Antarctica 13000 years ago. The scientists extracted meteor molecular objects made by organic bacteria(“UCSB Science Line”).
I find the Indiatimes article very interesting as man is highly devoted to finding any form of life on the red planet. The article is interesting because of the idea the researchers have that there will be a day in the future that a person or people could be able to live on Mars. If at any time in future people get to settle in Mars, there are a lot of interesting questions everybody could ask themselves at the moment; would life on the red planet be dependent on life on earth? Would it require people to travel as if it was earth’s different continent? Would the unavailability of water and heavy presence of a heavy rocky surface not be a huge challenge for human settlement on that planet? Then, this is an issue that has ensued heated debating among many people all over the world on the essence of such efforts. Some could argue that there are many parts or areas on earth that support various forms of life, but they have not been exploited; why not utilize all of the earth before thinking of the possibility of Mars being able to support life. On the other hand, such space programs as conducted by NASA are the surest way of understanding the nature of the world around us; through them, we are able to have ideas on how the earth and solar system are characterized. Therefore, there are two sides here, and each has its own merits and demerits.
It is important for people to unravel the mysteries within and around the earth. This is because people need to understand the world around them and such theories from various research explorations would help to quench their thirst for explanations. Imagine if Mars was habitable! It would be interesting if people could survive there just like on earth. However, a worrying factor worthy taking into consideration is the cost of making spatial trips and other programs and tests. Considering fuel cost and making supplies to space explorations costs millions of dollars. For instance, it costs over $10000/pound to send out any form of supplies to Mars to facilitate human exploration(“NASA: Water Means Life on Mars Is Possible – US News”). The current program in South America’s Atacama Desert has employed the best technologies with the best astronomy researchers hence a huge investment(“If There Really is Life on Mars, How Would It Be? NASA Carries out Life-detection Drill!”). As much as there are land and another resource pressure on earth due to the rapidly increasing population, the earth is still enough since most of it is yet to be exploited. The lots of cash spent trying to find the possibility of habitability on Mars should be used enhancing earth’s unexploited areas. Nevertheless, human beings are very curious about finding out new things; hence, they will never rest at anything while finding out new things on earth and the solar system. The focus should, therefore, not focus on Mars alone; there are many elements in the solar systems that can be explored. The earth’s moon is another heavenly body that can be explored in great detail to unravel life characteristics. NASA should not have the sole responsibility for carrying out spatial research since other countries also need to chip in through establishing their agencies that can help answer questions about the Earth and other astronomical bodies.
“Chile: NASA Searches for ‘Life’ in Mars-Like Desert.” Australia Network News. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
“If There Really is Life on Mars, How Would It Be? NASA Carries out Life-detection Drill!”Zee News. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
“NASA To Study Atacama Desert In South America To Assess Mars-Like Environment.”Indiatimes.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
“NASA: Water Means Life on Mars Is Possible – US News.” US News & World Report. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.
“UCSB Science Line.” UCSB Science Line. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.