Billions of years ago, Mars was a lush planet with flowing water and thick atmosphere where life can thrive. Now, it is an inhospitable place.
However, a researcher believes that life of some form might have survived and continue to exist on the Red Planet.
Is There Life On Mars?
During a recent conference held at the University of California, Berkeley, Michael Finney, co-founder of The Genome Partnership, spoke about the possibility that Earth's neighboring planet might be harboring extraterrestrial life right now.
"If Mars had life 4 billion years ago, Mars still has life. Nothing has happened on Mars that would've wiped out life," he shared during a panel discussion at Breakthrough Discuss. "So, if there were life on Mars, it may have moved around, it may have gone into hiding a bit, but it's probably still there."
Extraterrestrial Life Underground
One of the most promising areas where Martian life could be found is underground. The surface of Mars is pretty dry and barren, but scientists know that there is ice in the polar areas. Observations from the Mars Express orbiter also suggested that there is a great lake hiding underneath the planet's south pole.
Curiosity also discovered plumes of methane inside the Gale Crater where it has been exploring since 2012. Methane is bountiful on Earth; more than 90 percent of the atmospheric methane on Earth is produced by microbes and other organisms. It is possible that the methane in Mars was produced by creatures hiding underground.
On Earth, scientists have also found creatures in places where life should not exist. Microorganism, in particular, can survive extreme temperatures in areas with no light and no water for long periods of time.
Future Mars Missions
NASA is set to launch the Mars 2020 rover, which aims to explore the habitability of the Red Planet. The mission hopes to search for signs of potential habitable conditions in Mars' ancient past and look for evidence of past microbial life.
However, some researchers believe that NASA should also look for extraterrestrial life that could still be thriving despite the harsh environment on Mars.
Gary Ruvkun, one of the principal investigators on the Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes, or SETG, is pushing to search for extant life on Mars. He and his colleagues are constructing technology that they want to be used during future missions to find present DNA or RNA-based life outside of Earth.