Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.: Is there life on Mars?
What [scientists Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASA’s Ames Research Center] have found, according to several attendees of the private meeting, is not direct proof of life on Mars, but methane signatures and other signs of possible biological activity remarkably similar to those recently discovered in caves here on Earth.We would be delighted by the discovery of life on Mars. It would comfort us, in our solitude, to know that the development of life on Earth was not an isolated phenomenon, and of course we would greatly enjoy the inevitable theological debates.
Stoker and other researchers have long theorized that the Martian subsurface could harbor biological organisms that have developed unusual strategies for existing in extreme environments. That suspicion led Stoker and a team of U.S. and Spanish researchers in 2003 to southwestern Spain to search for subsurface life near the Rio Tinto river—so-called because of its reddish tint—the product of iron being dissolved in its highly acidic water . . . .
Stoker told her private audience Sunday evening that by comparing discoveries made at Rio Tinto with data collected by ground-based telescopes and orbiting spacecraft, including the European Space Agency’s Mars Express, she and Lemke have made a very a strong case that life exists below Mars’ surface.
The two scientists, according to sources at the Sunday meeting, based their case in part on Mars’ fluctuating methane signatures that could be a sign of an active underground biosphere and nearby surface concentrations of the sulfate jarosite, a mineral salt found on Earth in hot springs and other acidic bodies of water like Rio Tinto that have been found to harbor life despite their inhospitable environments.
One of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers, Opportunity, bolstered the case for water on Mars when it discovered jarosite and other mineral salts on a rocky outcropping in Merdiani Planum, the intrepid rover’s landing site chosen because scientists believe the area was once covered by salty sea.