SCIENTISTS are one step closer to finding alien life on Mars as Nasa’s InSight lander continues to explore the Red Planet.
The million-dollar question is if any evidence of life is similar to Earth or if it is an entirely different make up, an astrobiologist told The Sun Online.
Dr Lewis Dartnell, who designed part of a rover that will used to find signs of life on Mars, said there is “very good chance” that it will happen.
The professor and researcher at the University of Westminster said: “What we don’t know right now is if there is life on Mars and if there is – how similar is it to Earth?
« Is it really alien? Is it fundamentally different? Or does it just completely function in a different way? »
« The sort of life we expect to find are single-cells or hardy bacteria. That first kind of life is a microbial kind of life.
“What would excite me is to find something that had survived on Mars and bring it back to Earth to study and see how it works. »
Nasa’s InSight lander made it to the Red Planet on November 26 and transmitted incredible images of the planet’s rocky terrain.
By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth became a haven for life.
In 2021, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space agency will be sending the ExoMars rover to find life on Mars.
Dr Dartnell designed the rover’s Raman Spectrometer, an instrument capable of finding organic compounds, which will be sent to space for the first time.
What is the Nasa InSight lander?
The Nasa InSight langder launched on May 5, 2018 and landed on the Red Planet on November 26, 2018.
It is Nasa’s first in-depth investigation which will be focusing solely on the Red Planet.
The rocket will spend another two years in space.
The lander will take samples and carry out tests to find out how the planet is formed.
He explained: “It is used on Earth to test the purity of drugs and explosives. It is really good at finding trace amount of organic compounds, or signs of life.”
The rover is described as a miniaturised laboratory that will drill two metres in the ground to search for bacteria, single-sell organisms and alien microbes.
Dr Dartnell said: “We hope that by drilling two metres underground we hope the soil has been protected from the harsh conditions on Mars and we will find bacteria that can break down molecules.
“We will study the soil samples using different science experiments and they will hopefully tell us a story.
“We are looking for the building blocks of life and to see if life on Mars has been there before.
“We want to look to see how warm and how wet it has been. It would be more great evidence that Mars was a warmer and wetter world and it was once like Earth.”
Recently, a massive lake of liquid was discovered underneath the planet’s southern ice sheets.
The ESA’s Mars Express orbiter used ground-penetrating radar waves on the Red Planet between May 2012 to December 2015 and the incredible evidence of water was found after analysing the data.
What is the ExoMars rover?
The ExoMars rover is part of the international ExoMars programme led by the European Space Agency and the Russian Roscosmos State Corporation.
It is scheduled to launch in July 2020 and expected to land on the Red Planet in March 2021.
The rover will begin a seven month mission to look for life on Mars.
It weights 680 pounds (318 kilos).
One of the biggest features to the rover is the ground-penetrating drill that will be able to drill two metres into the planet’s surface.
The other big feature is the Raman Spectrometer, which can identify organic compounds.
Evidence of water gives scientists a more accurate idea of where to focus their alien-hunting mission.
Dr Dartnell added: “We will be adding to that understanding of what the ancient Martial climate was like.
“We are trying to detect signs of cells or their chemical fossils and we should be able to find traces.
“The more we learn about the range of condition that life can survive the more confidence we have that we can find signs of life on Mars.”
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 782 4368. You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.