A Salty Story of Life on Mars - Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion May 14, 2020

Exploring Mars means protecting the Red Planet from microbes from Earth. Small deposits of water which might offer refuge may be too salty for life to exist, a new study suggests.

A new look at the climate of Mars suggests life would be even harsher than thought for life on The Red Planet. That could be good news for Mars exploration.

James Maynard

Mars was once a water world. Today, pockets of water may still exist for a few hours a day, for a short time each Martian year. Still, these regions may be too salty for microorganisms from Earth to survive. This could, potentially, protect Mars from contamination by lifeforms from Earth that hitch a ride aboard a spacecraft. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Microorganisms from Earth traveling to Mars aboard spacecraft would struggle to survive in pockets of salty brine on the Red Planet, a new study suggests. This could be good news for the exploration of Mars, as these conditions would make it less likely the planet may be contaminated by microbes from Earth, hitching a ride on landers touching down on the alien surface.

Planetary protection from microbes from Earth has been a goal of NASA and other space agencies since the earliest days of space exploration.

“Such regions would be of concern for planetary protection policies owing to the potential for forward contamination (biological contamination from Earth),” researchers described in an article detailing their study, published in Nature Astronomy.

Read more: https://bit.ly/Salty-Life-Mars

Coming May 26: An interview with Dr. Alejandro Soto of the Southwest Research Institute, talking about water on Mars, and how salty conditions there could affect exploration of the Red Planet.


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