Martian Explorers Should Be Looking for Fossils

Fossilized remains of bacteria. Image credit: Arizona State UniversityInstead of just looking for current life on Mars, Arizona State University professor Jack Farmer thinks that future missions should also be looking for ancient fossils on the Red Planet. In fact, he thinks they might be easier to find.

Jack Farmer, a professor of geological sciences, presented his work at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. Instead of performing exobiology – where rovers look for current life – he thinks exopaleontology will be easier.

The problem with looking for life right now is that it requires liquid water. And finding liquid water on the surface of Mars is going to be very tough. If it’s there at all, liquid water is going to be underground or under thick sheets of ice. But fossilized bacteria might just be sitting right there on the surface of Mars, waiting for a rover to scoop it up and analyze it.

Instead of looking for liquid water, you just need to find a location where water once existed for some period of time. For example, where the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are currently roaming. In order to see fossilized bacteria, the rovers would need to be equipped with extremely sensitive microscopes and organic chemistry laboratories to analyze promising rocks.

It won’t be easy, but it’s probably easier than getting to liquid water.

Original Source: ASU News Release