NASA‘s next mission to Mars will be the most advanced so far. But if scientists discover that there was once life, or there is life, on the red planet, can people handle such an extraterrestrial concept?
NASA chief scientist Jim Green thinks not.
“It will be revolutionary,” Green told The Telegraph. “It will begin a completely new line of thinking. I don’t think we are prepared for the results. We are not”.
The agency’s Mars 2020 rover, which will be launched next summer, will be the first to collect samples of Martian material to send back to Earth.
But if scientists discover biofirms of life in the Earth’s crust, the findings could shake astrobiology, said Green, director of NASA’s Division of Planetary Science.
“What happens next is a completely new set of scientific questions,” he said. “Is that life like us? How are we related?
It is believed that the surface of the red planet is radioactive, so if there is life on Mars, it is likely to live underground.
“We’ve never drilled so deep,” he told The Telegraph. “When environments become extreme, life moves towards the rocks.”
The principle has been proven on our home planet: after drilling kilometers inside the Earth, researchers found more life in the earth’s crust than on its surface, he said.
“The conclusion is that where there is water there is life.”
And if the new agency agencies find evidence that the water once flowed over Mars, he said, confirmation could come weeks or months after landing, so buckle up, space lovers. The realm of possibilities could be expanded much sooner.
It is equipped with two high-definition cameras and a detachable helicopter to take aerial images of the cliffs, caves and craters of the planet.
The main objective of the mission is to look for signs of life. The rover will look for past habitable environments, look for biological signatures in rock and analyze those samples on Earth.
But if scientists fail to find evidence of life, that will not end with the hope of human exploration.
Mars 2020 will test the production of oxygen on the planet and control the Martian climate to assess how human colonies could live on Mars.