Astrophysicist Joe Pesce considers what life on mars might look like. Obviously, if we create habitation on Mars, we could be the first life on Mars, but the various rovers that have travelled to and on Mars have also been tasked with the important mission of looking for Martian life.
Martian life is certainly possible, Mars has water, and use to have a lot more, it also had an atmosphere, so the crucial elements for life may have existed previously and that begs the question, did life evolve on Mars, and if it did, can we find it?
Given what we know of life on Earth, everything evolved from single cell organisms, many of the tell-tale signs we are looking for, revolve around how life is likely to have formed.
Looking at extreme environments like the deep oceans, volcanoes, acid lakes and gas vents, there are many traits common to how life starts and evolves and it is likely that life on Mars may share some of those traits, making it easier for us to identify.
Many scientists believe it is very likely that life may have existed on Mars in the past, and if it did, then we should be able to find evidence of this existence.
So could life still exist on Mars? Certainly it is possible, though based on what we know of life, it is unlikely to exist on the surface of Mars, but more likely to be under the surface. If so, then we are going to need to invest far more time and develop new technology to find it.
Human Life On Mars
Obviously, life can exist on Mars, as we are looking to send people on missions to Mars, and potentially create habitable living environments. This could then lead to long term habitation, growing plants and perhaps even taking other organisms for farming.
Who knows, long term we might even terraform Mars, though this would be a herculean task that currently is beyond our abilities, but may not be in the future.
This does raise some interesting questions. If we do find life on Mars, how do we proceed, do we protect it as the first life ever found outside of Earth’s environment. What potential dangers would we pose by introducing ourselves and Earth organisms and bacteria to Mars?
Do we have a responsibility to ensure that we aren’t harming non terrestrial life before we start such missions. Certainly we may not find life on Mars, but it is something we should consider ahead of time so that we know how to proceed.
Where is our Prime Directive? It’s probably something we seriously need to consider as we head out into the solar system to explore, colonize and inhabit.