(ORDO NEWS) — People have watched the stars since ancient times. By carefully studying the night sky, astronomers of the past noticed something interesting: some objects moved faster than other stars.
For this reason, they were called “wandering stars”, which, as we know today, are planets that orbit the Sun along with the Earth.
Of particular interest to astronomers was the fourth planet farthest from the Sun – Mars. Its mass is nine times less than the earth, and ancient mountains covered with craters are concentrated on the surface. But has there ever been life on Mars?
Or maybe there is now? Unfortunately, previous studies have not provided a definitive answer to this question. But it seems that the secret will soon be revealed – the NASA Perseverance rover has begun searching for life on the Red Planet.
Weather on Mars
In the past, there was water on Mars. This is evidenced by the dried up riverbeds in the Northern Hemisphere, and in the Southern Hemisphere ancient mountains covered with craters are concentrated.
Moreover, the Red Planet is replete with young plains and huge volcanoes at least 27 kilometers high. Deep canyons stretch for thousands of kilometers, as do hundreds of dried-up ancient riverbeds.
But that’s not all. Martian winds reach speeds of 100m/s and carry a huge amount of dust, which forms a relief in the form of giant sand dunes.
The atmosphere on the Red Planet is about a hundred times rarer than the Earth’s and is almost entirely composed of carbon dioxide (95%), nitrogen and argon (sharing the remaining 5%). At the same time, there is practically no oxygen on Mars – only tenths of a percent.
Another interesting feature of the fourth planet from the Sun is ice, which is found in the Martian soil. In general, our neighboring planet is in a state of permafrost, and the temperature on its surface averages -60 degrees Celsius. Temperature fluctuations are also characteristic of the Red Planet and sometimes reach -100-150 degrees Celsius.
Mars’ polar caps are made up of a mixture of water ice and frozen carbon dioxide that evaporates during the Martian summer months and falls as precipitation in the winter. As for the Martian summer, it can hardly be called hot – the temperature does not rise above +25 degrees Celsius.
Learn more about what the Perseverance rover’s journey across the Red Planet will be like?
How robots conquered Mars
Since our bodies are not designed for space travel, robotic vehicles are the only way to explore the vicinity of the solar system.
To date, Mars is the only planet whose surface is surfed by real robots. One of them is NASA’s Perseverance, whose main goal is to search for life or its traces left in the Martian soil and polar ice caps.
Right now, as you’re reading this article, Perseverance is about to take rock samples from Lake Jezero Crater. Recall that the NASA apparatus arrived at the base of the ancient river delta about 15 months ago, but only now will it search for life.
To do this, the device had to dig a round hole five centimeters wide at the base of an ancient crater, where scientists believe that in the distant past there was a Martian river delta.
Researchers believe that the delta was formed billions of years ago, when a long-vanished river left traces of its presence in the Lake Lake crater. And this is the main reason for Perseverance’s journey across the surface of Mars.
How is Persistence looking for life on Mars?
All of our knowledge of the planets in the solar system and beyond is based on Earth, which is at least 4.5 billion years old. We know this because of river sediments that are teeming with life. The images taken by Perseverance show sediment particles that scientists believe must contain chemical or other traces of life.
The next few months the rover will be busy drilling the surface and collecting rock samples. Researchers from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) plan to retrieve the samples and bring them back to Earth for detailed study.
True, we will not know exactly what scientists will find until 2033 during the first ever return of samples to our planet.
Like a child assembling a set of gems for his prized collection, mission scientists debate which rocks the rover should select to represent the most geologically diverse specimens.
Persistence landed in February 2021 a few kilometers from the edge of the delta. In the first months after landing, the rover studied the bottom of the Lake Lake crater, which, as it turned out, consists of igneous rocks.
This discovery is a real scientific jackpot, as the deposits left behind may contain important evidence that there was once life on Mars.
When reality becomes fantasy
In March and April 2022, the Persistence rover traveled more than 11 kilometers, setting the first extraterrestrial record – the device covered 5 kilometers in 30 Martian days. Recall that a day on the Red Planet lasts almost 24.5 Earth hours.
But do not assume that Perseverance works alone. His assistant is a small Ingenuity helicopter, which my colleague Ramis Ganiev recently spoke about.
The Ingenuity lander played a major role in the rover’s journey, but its time on the Red Planet may be coming to an end – initial calculations suggested five trips, but Ingenuity was able to complete 28.
Moreover, it also helped to create the best routes for the Perseverance trip and surveyed flat terrain at the base of the delta where future missions could land.
Alas, in early May, the Ingenuity helicopter lost contact with the rover, as dust in the atmosphere blocked the sunlight needed by the work apparatus, more precisely, to charge the solar panels and battery.
Ultimately, the weather conditions on Mars can lead to serious problems and the device will no longer be able to take off. But whatever happens in the future, scientists have already managed to achieve incredible and stunning success.
Life in the solar system
Alas, the desire to send a man to Mars in the next decade may not succeed. Firstly, there is nothing to breathe there, and secondly, the consequences of long-term space travel can lead to the death of pioneer astronauts.
Fortunately, modern technologies do not require the presence of a person, which means that robots will plow the neighborhood of our space house.
In addition, Mars is not the only planet that could once contain life. Jupiter’s moons, Europa in particular, are covered in a thick ice sheet, with liquid water most likely underneath.
In the coming years, robotic vehicles will go to Europe, which will search for life under the ice. But what exactly they will find there is still unknown.
Agree, our achievements are reminiscent of science fiction novels. The satellites of the gas giants can turn out to be both lifeless deserts and home to unknown species of living beings. In addition, given the harsh conditions that prevail on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, we are unlikely to find intelligent life on them.
For this reason, you and I need to remember something: today, the only place suitable for life is Earth. Therefore, it is our direct duty to protect this pale blue dot.
After all, in the foreseeable future we will not have another home. Do you think there is someone alive in the solar system? And is it even worth looking for life outside of it? The answer, as always, is waiting in the comments to this article.
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