The Chief Scientist of NASA, Jim Green, believes that the world may not be ready to accept the concept of alien life on Mars. NASA is preparing to send its most advanced mission to Mars, the Mars 2020 Rover. One of the mission objectives is to find signs of alien life, even if its bacterial, on the Red Planet.
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Jim Green tells The Telegraph, “It will be revolutionary. It will start a whole new line of thinking. I don’t think we’re prepared for the results. We’re not.” This is absolutely true, as the very concept of alien life is only visualized in movies and TV shows. In reality, no one knows how alien life will be like, or even what that would mean for science and space exploration.
Mars 2020 Rover
The Mars 2020 Rover is preparing to launch next summer, with an expected landing around February 2021. NASA is using pretty much the same methods to land the rover as they did almost a decade ago with the Curiosity Mars Rover. This involves using a capsule to propulsively descend until it is low enough to directly lower the rover onto the Martian surface cables.
The Mars 2020 Rover will be the first Martian rover that will collect samples in order, and store them for a future return mission back to Earth. Getting our hands on these samples could lead to major findings that couldn’t have been possible with the limited equipment available on these rovers.
Discovery of biosignatures in the rocks will open up a whole new branch of science under astrobiology! Jim Green says:
What happens next is a whole new set of scientific questions. Is that life like us? How are we related?
Scientists believe that the ground underneath the surface is radioactive, so possibly life on Mars would exist beneath the surface. That is why the Mars 2020 Rover and the ESA’s (European Space Agency) ExoMars Rover will have the ability to drill into the surface, with scientific equipment to analyze the samples.
Jim Green goes on to elaborate his point with an Earth-based example. Scientists on Earth found more life underneath the surface, compared to above it when they drilled deep enough. “We’ve never drilled that deep,” he told the Telegraph. “When environments get extreme, life moves into the rocks.”
What if we don’t find alien life on Mars?
Though the primary mission objective is to drill the surface for samples, to test for biosignatures, that is not the only objective of the Mars 2020 Rover. It is also meant to test the feasibility of oxygen production on the Red Planet. It will also carry the first helicopter to attempt to fly on Mars, the first non-Earth flying object. This test has huge potentials for testing scouting ability and flight possibility on Mars, a required feat for scouting and human exploration.
Basically, the rover and the flight tests will help us gather data on future Mars colonization possibilities. With NASA’s reliable method of powered descent landing, it is safe to say that the mission will probably be a huge success.