Mars rover sensors may not be sensitive enough to find signs of life

Mars rover sensors may not be sensitive enough to find signs of life

Whereas testing Mars rover sensors within the Atacama desert, researchers by chance discovered a number of unclassifiable microorganisms referred to as the “darkish biome.”


February 21, 2023

An space of ​​the Atacama desert referred to as Crimson Stone

Armando Azua-Bustos

Scientific devices we ship to Mars could not detect indicators of life there. Exams of those devices on samples Atacama desert Scientists in Chile have proven that even when they exist on Mars, they might not be delicate sufficient to detect organic materials.

Armando Azua-Bustos On the Spanish Heart for Astrobiology in Madrid and colleagues took samples from an space of ​​the desert referred to as Crimson Stone; Right here the powder is purple as a result of it is full of hematite, the identical mineral that provides Mars its rusty colour. “That is most likely essentially the most Mars-like place on Earth,” Azua-Bustos says. “Being there may be nearly like being on Mars, aside from the colour of the sky.”

After they use cutting-edge scientific instruments – the sort discovered solely in laboratories on Earth They discovered as much as 1 microgram of DNA per gram of soil to research the construction of their samples. This included DNA from 19 bacterial species and two fungi.

Nevertheless, practically half of the microbial DNA didn’t match something within the genetic databases we had, main the researchers to refer to those microbes because the “darkish microbiome.” This might imply that they’re beforehand undiscovered organisms, or that they’re the stays of organisms that lived within the space lots of of thousands and thousands of years in the past. “We all know the microorganisms are there, we’ve the sequences, however we won’t inform you what these are,” Azua-Bustos says.

When the researchers examined their samples utilizing devices similar to these on present Mars rovers and people deliberate for the close to future, these devices have been barely capable of detect darkish or another microbial materials. “Should you have been an alien who got here to Earth and landed within the Atacama desert with autos much like those we’ve on Mars, you possibly can say that Earth is uninhabited,” Azua-Bustos says. “If these devices cannot detect what we all know is at this web site, how will they see something on Mars the place we do not even know what to search out?”

If there was life on Mars, which means our spacecraft most likely will not discover convincing proof for it. “We have to be cautious in deciphering the absence of sturdy proof of life as proof of its absence,” he wrote. Carol Stoker In a commentary accompanying the article at NASA Ames Analysis Heart in California. To make sure any indicators of life are detected on Mars, we might want to deliver samples again to Earth for evaluation – a mission NASA plans to undertake within the late 2020s.

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