Imminent Discovery of Life On Mars?

Do you think there is life on Mars? Do you think Phoenix will find evidence of it? Now there’s a blog that’s trying to collect a snapshot of the opinions of scientists, amateurs, and everyday people. “Imminent Discovery” thinks Phoenix may find simple life. Finding this evidence will definitely become headlines… If it happens. Is it possible it might have originated from earth? Perhaps from space, like the famous Antarctica meteorite which was believed to contain evidence of life transported here from Mars?

According to Richard Trentman, a Minor Planet Coordinator at Powell Observatory, “The idea of life in some form on other planets, I believe is highly probable. I have studied about the extreme places on this planet where life has been found and many are far more extreme than may be found on Mars and other planets or moons in our solar system. I believe that anyone that thinks life cannot be “out there” has their eyes closed and blinders on.”

Over time, many astronomers have spent a lifetime dreaming of life and formations on Mars like the misguided Slipher: “Some form of vegetation exists. …The evidence is in the blue-green areas and the changes in their appearance. Vegetation would present exactly the appearance shown, and nothing we know of but vegetation could. The season change that sweeps over them is metabolic…” And yet others take more pragmatic views like astronaut Pete Conrad who commented on bacteria surviving on retrieved Surveyor III remains: “The most significant thing we ever found on the whole Moon was that little bacteria who came back and lived an nobody ever said (anything) about it.”

What’s your opinion? Help to update the book “Imminent Discovery, NASA’s Phoenix and the Secret of Life on Mars” in a post-discovery edition with some of these inputs. Please feel free to Post Your Thoughts On The Imminent Discovery of Life On Mars. Responses may be anonymous or you may use initials if you prefer. To make it more interesting, there is a random drawing of all individuals who enter comments to give away one copy of the classic 1962 book by Earl Slipher “Mars, the Photographic Story”, and a competition between astronomy clubs. Have fun!

51 Replies to “Imminent Discovery of Life On Mars?”

  1. I believe ther is a 100% chance that there is life on other planets in the universe. Maybe there is no life on mars but ther sertainly life in the universe besides here.

  2. Tammy, cool article as I count down the hours to the Phoenix landing.

    I imagine that finding life would get the public behind putting a bit more money into the space program – so please please please find something!!!

    One note though, the Surveyor III bacteria story may be an urban myth – I wiki’ed it after I read your article and “they” (and really who knows who “they” are!) basically said that it was.


  3. In my opinion, there is no more than (and probably much less than) a 1% chance of finding either currently living or fossilized life on Mars with Phoenix. And when I say life, I mean some sort of simple bacteria or more primitive form of life.

    I would be delighted to be wrong though!

    Colin Says:
    May 13th, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    “One note though, the Surveyor III bacteria story may be an urban myth – I wiki’ed it after I read your article and “they” (and really who knows who “they” are!) basically said that it was.”

    Very interesting – I must admit I was guilty of just swallowing the ‘bacteria surviving the moon’ story (not Tammy’s story specifically, but the bacteria story in general) without really checking into it. It does seem like there are arguments that at the very least put the claim in very serious doubt. I guess the most telling issue is that these results have apparently never been released in a peer reviewed scientific journal. If true, this makes it no more than an unsubstantiated claim in my book.

    BTW, this is not a slight on your story Tammy! Just an interesting matter that’s been brought up…

  4. Chances of finding either current or fossilized life on Mars with Phoenix are << 1% I would have thought.

    It would be great if I were wrong though!

    In relation to Colin’s comment on the Surveyor 3 bacteria – interesting! I must admit my guilt – I’d always assumed it was true, but it does seem as if there are very strong arguments that the claim of ‘bacteria surviving the moon’ doesn’t hold up.

  5. So long as it works Phoenix will better define the question, one way of the other. And find lots more interesting stuff beside. Who needs life when you have rocks?

  6. Nonsense. Pre-emption isn’t written in the scientific method.
    Scientists are just hedging their bets so that is a discovery that some prediction comes true. Only then they can justify their funding and claim the one who discovered it.
    Evidence is one thing. Evidence gained by chicken entrails, well that’s another thing….

  7. I think it’s the variety of comments that surprised me the most. From the poetic:

    “Its May already, and perhaps, the last moments alone in the Universe =)”
    Eduardo Lopez

    to the humorous:

    “…I think that there was life on mars but went extinct because the inhabitants spent all their money on gas and starved to death.”

    And from the technical and precise to the hyper-concise: “hahaha. i agree.” from Zack.

    Thanks, Tammy
    Good Luck Phoenix!

  8. I would guess that there is definitely life on: Mars, Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Enceledas
    And at one point, there was life on Venus, before its plate tectonics locked up

  9. Prehaps life seeks life and the desire to find it is because some part of us knows it is out there.

  10. I am dubious about our odds of finding life on Mars, I think that there is a greater chance where a substantial fluid medium might be present such as one of the Moons of a Gas Giant.

    I will confess however that I think Mars might be capable of harboring life and is a potential candidate for terra forming in the distant future. The presence of life on the planet will certainly redefine the parameters of future exploration there.

  11. Opinions one way or the other on this topic are a meaningless distraction from the science.

  12. What did the poor chickens do to get their entrails stretched across this forum.

  13. lets just wait to see phoenix land safely and begin operating as its ment to only then may be able to discover some form of life on this alien planet

  14. It is ignorant to think that some sort of alien has never visited our planet which has a life span of 4 billion yrs. If you think about it a million yrs is along time 4 billion is unimaginable

  15. Why would you ask if found life on Mars would have its origins here on Earth?

    It’s more likely that Mars seeded Earth eons ago when chunks of it were blasted away by meteors and the Earth flew into the Martian space debris.

    I think also that once we quit looking for Earth-like life we will find lots of life out there. Our biological basis can’t be the only possible combination that would support life.

    But Giovanni has it right — let’s just get the lander onto the planet FIRST and then worry about discovering little green men and women.

  16. i do believe out there, there is life. maybe more intelligent than we humans. With all those stars up in the sky believe me there is life and the sun or our sun is one among millions of stars out there. every star has its own solar system, the milky way the galaxy just name them. life is there out

  17. I get so tired of the “Did Earth get seeded with life from Mars” discussion. It glosses over the fact that life must have come from somewhere to be seeded from.

    Until we have definitive evidence that life couldn’t have developed here on its own there’s no point in even arguing it.

  18. So long as it works Phoenix will better define the question, one way of the other. And find lots more interesting stuff beside. Who needs life when you have rocks?

  19. Life on mars will certify that life is common in the universe. But, even if there is no life on mars, recent discoveries show that life is viable in a myriad of environments. From water to earth’s surface to undersea volcanic vents to miles beneath the surface where no light or oxygen exists to the insides of other creatures. Life exists everywhere and doesn’t seem to follow the rules we’ve decided for it. It’s not unreasonable to assume that life exists elsewhere.
    The question that we can’t answer yet is “has any of that life made contact with earth?” That I assume hasn’t happened and is unlikely any time soon.

  20. I know i hope there is life on mars but in reallity i think its more likely that there WAS life on mars. As for the universe you’d have to be a very closed mind individual to think that in this vast universe we are alone. What worries me is if we eventually to find some kind of proof on mars or anywhere for that matter. I have a very very very good feeling that some government, agency, or religion will do every thing in its power to make sure no one else finds out. I hope that those in charge have a very good plan for dissemenation if evidence is found

  21. have you ever thought of the idea that life doesnt even exist on a planet, but space it self….perhaps an astroid…

  22. What If…? Life came from Mars? are we are forgetting something here, How did It get to Mars? or Earth, if we seeded Mars. These are important questions to be sure. If Life is transported from elsewhere then we are looking at the arrival point of life not the origin or departure point. Life is out there somewhere in this vast universe of ours, I am sure of it. If we stood upon our solar system as giants and looked outward, outside our small confines, we would see it. We are looking downward through a microscope of life, let’s look upward and outward. The discovery of life on Mars will prove Life is abundant in the Universe; the lack of proof on Mars will turn our eyes outward.

  23. All this discussion fails to bring up the rather important point that Phoenix is not able to discover life on Mars: its instruments can, at best, detect organic materials that are the elemental building blocks of life, but are themselves not necessarily evidence of past or present life. This “Imminent Discovery” site is nothing but an effort by a crank to sell copies of his book. It’s surprising and disappointing that Universe Today didn’t see through this and examine it all a little more critically.

  24. I think through time we are question our parameters to define life and witch conditions can it exist.

    In the end I just hope that what ever they find or discover doesn’t bring more damage then good to our planet and to us

  25. I think sometimes we mislead ourselves. The fact that we see life everywhere on Earth does not mean that its origins were easy or inevitable. It only means that, once started, it’s nearly impossible to stop. Even the simplest cell has a complex structure and biochemistry. If we were to find evidence of DNA on Mars, that’s not life. If we find RNA, that’s not life. If we find amino acids and proteins, they’re not life. Finding the building blocks would certainly be promising but it’s a quantum leap from building blocks to a living organism.
    It’s not about ingredients; it’s about organization.

  26. <>

    Typical conspiratorial mindset crap. If there’s any hint of possible life on Mars, past or present, NASA will TRUMPET it to all corners of the world. They did that in 1996, when they only had a Martian meteorite to go by. It would not only justify the billions spent on Mars exploration so far, it would probably guarantee funding for more robotic and human exploration.

  27. Read deeper Flavius. When mankind finally reaches Mars we will find life there –(ourselves).

  28. Chances are… life on other planets will discover us before we discover them.

  29. This topic is not about Man walking on Mars. It’s about the possibility of abiotic or panspermatic life. Bob has the only rational comment on here. And regardless of your opinions on Richard Hoagland, NASA will tell us what they WANT to tell us. Let’s not forget that NASA is first and foremost a department of defense organization. Emotional opinions are moot until NASA decides the time is right to tell us anything.

  30. I hope someone at NASA has considered that the Earth may have seeded life on Mars, but not aeons ago, perhaps as recently as the 1970’s, when the first landings were made. How long might it take Earth microbes to mutate and spread from all the various landing/impact sites to the Phoenix landing site?

  31. I hope this is the case, that life will be found.
    Much of the evidence coming out of the Mars missions lately have not been in favor of life being found. This is in spite of the obvious presence of liquid water on the Martian surface in the past.
    Worthy of further investigation to be sure !

  32. Right on, Robbi. There’s star stuff out in the Universe put together alot earlier than us, any telescope on Earth will show this. They already had Uranium while we were still messing around with Lithium. What is really fascinating is that there is a good chance that there are more neuron cells in our brains than there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. The future destiny of Mankind is far more precious than where he travels and what he meets. Good thinking, Robbi

  33. # RobbiNewman Says:
    May 15th, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Chances are… life on other planets will discover us before we discover them.

    Yeap I agree and that already happened with the ALH 84001 find, life on Mars came to us, and we just looked the other way.

    Very rude we are. 🙂

  34. At the end of the day one has to realize that life on earth is just one example of how life can evolve. Life on other planets could have followed a completely different path and not be subject to any of the conditions that need to be present for earth based lifeforms. The reality of it is that as science progresses, even on our planet, we are finding new forms of metabolism we never imagined would exist, and we are finding them because we finally bothered to look in places that people nearly universally believed it couldn’t 50 years ago.

  35. Life exsits everywhere even in space itself. We must change our narrow concept of what life is and can be. Life always finds a way thats the point of being here. Every planet even the sun has life on it, life is amazing and very resilient and can adapt to survive anywhere.

  36. I predict no life or indications thereof from Phoenix or MSL. Also Phoenix will not find permafrost with its digging arm.
    I also am pessimistic that the true cause of its predecessor’s demise is not known and there is a chance Phoenix may suffer the same glitch, which may be akin to auroral activity near the poles, i.e. charged particle flux affecting vehicle electronics adversely after a charge buildup on the vehicle’s surface. I hope things work.

  37. A few years ago, Looking at Infrared spectra of Mars from the European Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) CAM CVF I noticed features absorption corresponding to the “Sinton bands” cited as evidence of extraterrestrial chlorophyll back in the 1960s. The evidence was rejected when some of the bands were attributed to water (?) in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Well, I doubt the bands in Mars’ spectrum are chlorophyll (maybe something organic though), but the ISO was above earth’s atmosphere so they are certainly on Mars whatever they are. Much evidence of this sort may have been rejected early on as soon as a plausible alternative was suggested (extrordinary demands require extraordinary proof, etc.). When in fact, because of the importance of the possible, if extraordinary, original suggestion, follow ups should have been pursued. No one need account something as ‘proof’ of life in order to find it intriguing enough to investigate. The Viking chemistry has not been revisited with newly designed experiments capable of checking the hypotheses generated for over 30 years!

  38. I am still wondering how life can exist in space. Like do even know if life can exist on Mars or Uranus? In school I am doing a project for Science and we are trying to find if life exists on Uranus or any of it’s moons.
    So if you can tell me if life exists on Uranus or any of it’s moons Leave a Reply answering my question. Thank you : )

  39. From what I’ve read and it does seem logical, the Universe is made of the same matter throughout. Given the right set of circumstances life evolves from matter; density, gravity, distance from a heat and light source, time etc. If the conditions on Mars at any time in its evolution came within the parameters that allow life to form then evidence of past life forms will eventually be found, the same applies to all planets in this solar system, the solar systems of every other star in this Galaxy and in every other Galaxy. To be otherwise would contradict basic physics.

  40. It is logically certain that some form of life exists elsewhere in the universe. Maybe there will be some simple form of life detected on Mars and then again, maybe not. We’ll simply have to wait and see! Concerning the possibility of discovering or communicating with an intelligent alien probably will never happen. While the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere is strong, it will most likely be very rare with mind-bending distances of tens of thousands of light years between species. Any attempt to communicate with modulated radio frequency over just a few light years by any intelligence will be lost in the overwhelming natural background noise of the universe. The challenge to detect a multi-light-year weakened signal will be very similar to trying to locate a burning candle on the surface of distant star. It just isn’t going to happen. I fervently believe SETI is wasting their time and our tax dollars looking for evidence of alien intelligence. However, it would be interesting to hear from someone at SETI concerning their ability to detect, say, a near non-existing femto-watt of any frequency RF.

  41. Since posting previously I have read through some more of the previous posts. Most refer to a belief in something, which means in effect they have no proof. My point, and its difficult to make it any simpler, is that the universe is made of the same stuff throughout so, given the right conditions (and they are fairly precise) life will evolve, it’s what rock does.

  42. So it’s been almost 2 1/2 months since this article and I want to get the last word – but Phoenix still hasn’t gotten any icy soil mix into the oven. So, I’ll be back with the last word when those results are finally in.

  43. @TD
    those results have now come in….

    @Cliff Fraser
    you say: the universe is made of the same stuff throughout so, given the right conditions (and they are fairly precise) life will evolve… and yes, that’s exactly how science works: the same “stuff in the mix” returns the same results – that’s how scientists make up and test hypotheses and theories.

    It stands, imo, to scientific reason that life exists throughout the Universe, that it hangs on to whatever it can for as long as it can (until the conditions become too extreme even for extremophile life forms)… and also: since all matter in the Universe comes from the same kind of “star dust”, set adrift by the same quantum fluctuations when the singularity went “Bang” , all life throughout the Universe is bound to be very similar and reasonably familiar to us.

    Sci-Fi Fans looking for strange Silicon based entities with luminous green blood or bacteria that eat Uranium are most likely out of luck.

    to quote Ned Kelly: “Such is Life”

  44. ‘Looking for life in all the wrong places, looking for life’. Haa! What a organization of funny beings, Haa! Looking for life on the surface of Mars is definatly not the way to go, Haa! GO DOWN

  45. @feenixx
    Just revisiting this old thread but would add:

    The spectrum of life on this little planet is very diverse and has changed over the millenia to suit the conditions. Dinosaurs could not exist today because the oxygen content of the atmosphere has reduced from 30% to 20%, they would suffocate.

    Similar, but not quite the same conditions on another planet could produce a whole different set of species. Even on earth there are some strange species evolving around underwater volcanic vents in the mid-Atlantic that require no sunlight.

    The evolutionary leap that raised our intelligence way above the next most intelligent creature on this planet could on another planet do the same to an entirely different species.

    Blood is not red in all species on Earth.

  46. Water splashed up on the Phoenix landing strut…..the recent announcement of seasonal methane on Mars….fantastic.

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