(ORDO NEWS) — A new NASA study suggests that their rovers need to dive 6.6 feet under the surface of the Red Planet to detect amino acids that point to the existence of life on the Red Planet. This is reported by the Daily Star.
NASA experts say rovers could detect evidence of alien life if they dive seven feet into the Red Planet.
The hunt for aliens involves finding certain amino acids on Mars, which in turn are the building blocks of proteins.
However, a new study by the US space agency, published in the journal Astrobiology, suggests that cosmic rays are destroying this evidence on Mars faster than we thought.
Alexander Pavlov of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland said: “Current rover missions are deepening to about two inches.
At such depths, it would take only 20 million years to completely destroy the amino acids.
The addition of perchlorates and water further increases the rate of degradation of amino acids.”
By cosmic standards, 20 million years is just a blink of an eye, so you should look for evidence of ancient life billions of years ago, when Mars was much more like Earth.
NASA now believes rovers will need to dig about 6.6 feet deep to make a breakthrough and find amino acids that haven’t been destroyed by ionizing radiation from space.
Pavlov continued: “Shallow sampling missions should look for recently discovered outcrops—for example, recent microcraters less than 10m years old, or material ejected from such craters.”
There is reason to believe that billions of years ago, Mars had a dense atmosphere and a global magnetic field, like the Earth. The atmosphere would allow liquid to be on the Red Planet. It would also block cosmic rays from reaching the surface.
Cosmic rays are generated by powerful events in space such as exploding stars and solar flares. They penetrate solid rocks and ionize organic molecules, thereby destroying them.
To find out how quickly cosmic rays destroy amino acids, the scientists blew up samples that had been stored at different temperatures with varying levels of gamma radiation, simulating about 80 million years of cosmic ray exposure.
This was the first experiment to mix amino acids with simulated Martian soil.
“Our work is the first comprehensive study that has examined the degradation (radiolysis) of a wide range of amino acids under various factors associated with Mars (temperature, water content, perchlorate abundance) and compared radiolysis rates,” Pavlov explained.
“It appears that the addition of silicates, and especially silicates with perchlorates, significantly increases the rate of degradation of amino acids.”
Amino acids have yet to be found on Mars. They have previously been found on meteorites, including one from Mars, although it is still unclear how they got there.
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