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NASA’s Mars Exploration Program

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Astrobiology

Astrobiology is a comparatively new subject of examine, the place scientists from quite a lot of disciplines (astronomy, biology, geology, physics, and many others.) work collectively to grasp the potential for all times to exist past Earth. Nevertheless, the exploration of Mars has been intertwined with NASA’s seek for life from the start. The dual Viking landers of 1976 had been NASA’s first life detection mission, and though the outcomes from the experiments didn’t detect life within the Martian regolith, and resulted in an extended interval with fewer Mars missions, it was not the tip of the fascination that the Astrobiology science neighborhood had for the pink planet.

The sphere of Astrobiology noticed a resurgence as a result of controversy surrounding the potential fossil life within the ALH84001 meteorite, and from the outsized public response to this announcement, and subsequent curiosity from Congress and the White Home, NASA’s Astrobiology Program (https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ )and one in all its main applications, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (https://nai.nasa.gov/ ) had been fashioned.

Additionally presently, NASA’s Mars Exploration Program started to research Mars with an rising deal with missions to the Crimson Planet. The Pathfinder mission and Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Alternative) had been despatched to Mars to “Observe the Water,” recognizing that liquid water is important for all times to exist on Earth. After establishing that Mars as soon as had vital quantity of water on its floor, the Mars Science Laboratory (which incorporates the Curiosity rover) was despatched to Mars to find out whether or not Mars had the precise elements within the rocks to host life, signaling a shift to the subsequent theme of “Discover Habitability”. MEP is now growing the Mars 2020 rover mission (https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mars2020/ ) to find out whether or not life might have left telltale signatures within the rocks on Mars’s floor, an additional shift to the present science theme “Search the Indicators of Life”.

Discovering fossils preserved from early Mars would possibly inform us that life as soon as flourished on this planet. We will seek for proof of cells preserved in rocks, or at a a lot smaller scale: compounds known as biosignatures are molecular fossils, particular compounds that give some indication of the organisms that created them. Nevertheless, over a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of years these molecular fossils on Mars are topic to being destroyed or remodeled to the purpose the place they could not be acknowledged as biosignatures. Future missions should both discover floor areas the place erosion from wind-blown sand has lately uncovered very historic materials, or alternately samples should be obtained from a shielded area beneath the floor. This latter strategy is being taken by the ExoMars rover (http://exploration.esa.int/mars/48088-mission-overview/ ) underneath growth the place drilled samples taken from a depth of as much as 2 meters might be analyzed.

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