Free Essay Sample «The Search for Life on Mars»

«The Search for Life on Mars»

Planet Mars has been known to humankind since time immemorial. Observing a blood red star in the sky, ancient people gave it the name of the god of war. None of the planets of the solar system attracts so much attention and remains so mysterious. With the advent of telescopes, the planet became possible to study in detail. Galileo found that Mars has a spherical shape, and the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli found out straight sections on the surface of the planet, which he mistook for synthetic constructions and called “channels” in 1877 (Impey 194). It has made an impression that intelligent life exists (or existed in the past) on Mars.

The Martian soil contains a high percentage of iron and makes the planet of the reddish color (McKay, “The Search for Life in Our Solar System” 596). Since Mars is situated 1.5 times further from the Sun in comparison to the Earth, it receives 2.3 times less heat. The average annual temperature is close to -60º C. However, it rises to +25° C near the equator in the afternoon. At sunset, this temperature drops to -10º C, and in the morning, it is -90º C (Impey 192). Such sharp fluctuations in temperature are explained by the rarefied atmosphere, which cannot retain the heat produced during the day and at night. It is rapidly radiated into the surrounding space. Thus, the spectrographic studies and subsequently direct landing on Mars clearly confirmed that the highest form of life could not exist currently (McKay, “An Origin of Life on Mars” 1). The reason is simple: the absence of oxygen in the atmosphere, microscopic fraction of water vapor and ozone, as well as cold space. On the other hand, the dry beds of ancient rivers, soil erosion, and large streams of water were found on Mars. Therefore, a growing number of scientists are inclined to believe that many millions of years ago the planet had a denser atmosphere and possibly water. Thus, there could exist some form of organic life on the planet (McKay, “The Search for Life in Our Solar System” 596).

People started thinking that Mars might contain life a long time ago. As it has been mentioned earlier, Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered straight sections, and it gave the first impetus to this hypothesis. When the existence of water on Mars had been confirmed (in the ice caps and under the ground), scientists started investigating the existence of life more persistently. A picture taken by the NASA apparatus showed the size of a mountain sculpture, which became widely known as a “face”. It was even called the Martian Sphinx and was believed to be artificial. However, the studies have proven that this structure is natural (Impey 203).

In the 1970s, American spacecraft “Viking 1” and “Viking 2” held three special experiments aimed to search for life on Mars (“Life”). One of them contained a nutrient medium with a small amount of radioactive carbon-14. A sample taken from the surface of the planet contained liquid. In case there was something alive in the ground, it would have to eat the liquid and allocate a little portion of radioactive gas. However, the latter was not found. Two other experiments were also aimed at finding traces of life in any form, and nothing was discovered as well (McKay, “The Search for Life in Our Solar System” 596). Another possible way to find life on Mars is to apply the Earth scenario. The most common assurance is that life on the Earth is from water microorganisms. Therefore, the existence of water on Mars may testify that the same model can be applied to the search for life on Mars. Since water is mostly underneath the planet surface, there is a possibility that microorganisms exist in it (McKay, “An Origin of Life on Mars” 3).

Mars exploration continues. After the myths about life on it had been dispelled, and all interesting “ruins” and findings had been proven a game of imagination and shadows, NASA took a more profound and interesting approach to studying the red planet. Currently, Spirit and Opportunity vehicles are doing a great job on the Mars surface. These two machines have been already working on the planet for ten years (“Life”). NASA has found traces of a lake, which, from the images, was inhabited with organisms with almost full probability hundreds of millions of years ago. In the pictures of the crater, among clearly visible debris, there are large and small boulders and smaller divisions. These structures should have been formed under the influence of the environment inhabited by such living creatures as jellyfish, algae, or plankton (“Life”).

Summarizing and analyzing the data presented above, there is no life on Mars. Nowadays, the red planet simply does not fit the conditions necessary for the life of even the simplest organisms. However, it seems that it existed long ago. In the past, when there was water on Mars in the liquid form and it had an atmosphere similar to the one of the Earth, life might have existed there. There are many myths and conjectures about it, but the exact answer cannot be given due to the absence of precise data. Until the present time, scientists have debated whether life on the planet exists. Investigations have been made since 1877, and still no one can give an exact answer. First, ufology ruins and structures spotted on the planet are traces of the intelligent activity. Besides, NASA scientists have made several discoveries that almost prove the existence of life on Mars in the distant past, but as a result, questions and controversies remain to be resolved.



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