Science Space

Exploring Mars – What We Know So Far

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The Mars Exploration Program is something which has been going on for quite some time – in fact, it started as far back as 1965 when the first close-up pictures of the planet were taken. Over the years, NASA has been working hard on gathering as much information as possible about the red planet. Is there life on Mars? Could humans live there? Will we start another colony on this other planet? There are so many questions and currently not a huge amount of answers, but we’re getting there. Here’s what we know about the planet Mars so far.

Life On Mars?

One of the most recent and impressive discoveries was announced by NASA in 2015 – liquid water. This is a key finding by the Mars Exploration Rovers, but why? Well, what scientists do know is that anywhere you find liquid water on Earth you tend to find life. Whether the liquid water on Mars is ancient or current, it poses the question; could there be life on Mars? It’s possible that any kind of microscopic life forms could have lived in or near the water… In fact, they still might. While NASA has known for some time that there was frozen water on Mars, in the form of polar ice caps, the discovery of liquid water is an extremely exciting prospect indeed.

Seek Signs of Life

The current exploration strategy by NASA is known as “Seek Signs of Life”, and is the key to finding out whether there really is life on Mars. Or at least if there has been in the past. The famous Curiosity Rover has also been following the water in another program, in the hope that this could also lead to more signs of life. While it’s still unclear whether this liquid water is a sign of life as we would know it on Earth, it does give scientists and researchers more of an idea of what they may be looking for.

Humans on Mars?

Another exciting aspect of finding liquid water on Mars is that it could pave the way for humans to one day live on Mars. We already know that the planet is very similar to our own in some respects; it has clouds and canyons, volcanoes and seasonal weather patterns. In fact, it’s thought that this is a planet where floods once raged and volcanoes once exploded. Very much like planet Earth. While Mars is still quite a volatile, cold and rocky planet, scientists are working on discovering whether it can be tamed. If so, then there’s a strong possibility of humans living and working on Mars. Many different groups have discussed creating a human colony on Mars, including Mars One, but scientists say we are still a long way off working out whether this is truly possible.

The fact of the matter is, the Mars Exploration Program has seen some extremely exciting developments over the last couple of years. With a clear focus on seeking signs of life and following that precious water source, NASA now have a clear direction in which to move. Whether or not there is (or was) life on Mars is something we are still in the dark about, but it’s unlikely to be too long before we have the answers. After that? There could then be a pretty uncomfortable battle over who gets to colonise the red planet first.

 

About the author

Rebecca Walton

Rebecca has always been fascinated with the business and tech world, having grown up with parents in the industry. She has a real passion for science - particularly space and the unknown realms that surround the planet! Rebecca has been writing for different publications for nearly 6 years and is now an editor at Pangaea Express.