Scientists are advising NASA to “go deep” in the quest for alien life on Mars.
Experts believe there could be a better chance of finding living organisms below the red planet’s surface, and are urging the space agency to start digging. No evidence of life has been found on Mars yet.
Well, that’s the view of Joseph Michalski, an associate professor of earth sciences at the University of Hong Kong, who spoke to Live Science.
Michalski thinks that humans are biased by our own existence on Earth to think life must be lurking on a planet’s surface.
When Mars was a young planet, he explains, its surface would’ve been quite similar to Earth.
However, the planet eventually lost its magnetic field, exposing it to intense radiation that would’ve made on-surface living difficult.
Life may have already been “cooking” on Mars before that happened, Michalski hypothesizes, and simply adapted to life underground.
“Life could have emerged in those hydrothermal settings and survived in the subsurface for quite a long time,” he said.
In fact, we’ve already seen plenty of evidence that there’s a huge amount of life lurking in Earth’s deep biosphere.
According to Michalski, “deep-dwelling microorganisms” make up nearly half of all life on our blue planet.
And that discovery, he argues, could be applied to Mars.
“We’re at the point now where it’s truly a frontier of understanding what ‘deep biosphere’ truly means, and how that relates to exoplanets and other planets in our solar system,” the professor explained.
“It’s a window into our own origins.”
Michalski believes it’s “even more habitable” below ground on Mars than on the surface.
In fact, he suspects Mars’ cooler molten core could be even better for hosting life than Earth’s own.
“We could have single-celled organisms that could be dormant for a long time, but could survive through metabolizing hydrogen, methane, potentially sulfur,” he told Live Science.
“Without being too specific, we think there are a lot of possibilities.”
But probing beneath Mars’ surface is no easy feat.
Due to the sheer distance between Earth and Mars (about 33.9 million miles), it’s challenging to explore the fourth planet from the Sun. That’s why NASA uses satellites, probes, telescopes, rovers and landers to investigate the surface of Mars.
However, NASA has already started to somewhat probe underground using its InSight lander, which arrived on the planet in 2018.
One of InSight’s instruments is designed to burrow 20 feet into the ground of Mars, to measure the planet’s temperature.
This reportedly will give scientists a better idea of whether the red planet can support sub-surface life.