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Where to hunt for life on Mars – Axios

After decades of sending missions to Mars, NASA is now zeroing in on areas of the red planet that they believe have the best chance of determining whether the world has been worth – or worth – life.

The big picture: Scientists can now point to parts of Mars that were once probably wet and warm, with geological signatures similar to rivers, deltas and lakes on Earth – which increases the odds that those parts of Mars once could have been kind to life.

"Living and living are two very different issues. You can build a house and you can decorate it nicely and put food in the fridge, but that does not mean that someone lives there."


1; NASA's Melissa Trainer to Axios

Driving the News: A new study shows that NASA's March 2020 rover will land in an area that may be the perfect place to hunt for the fossilized evidence of Previous life.

  • The landing site – known as the Jezero Crater – was once home to a long-lived lake and river joining billions of years ago.
  • The rim of the crater can be rich in carbonates, which can help preserve the signs of ancient life in fossilized form.
  • The March 2020 rover is expected to investigate the possible rock deposits and explore the delta that once fed the lake into the crater.

Meanwhile: Last week, NASA announced that Curiosity – which found Mars was inhabited for microbial life earlier – discovered a small amount of oxygen on Mars, but no one is quite sure where it came from.

  • The discovery contributes to the mystery of the rover's possible discovery of methane, also reported earlier this year.

Yes, but: It is possible that methane and oxygen could have been created by natural geological processes that have nothing to do with life.

  • Finding the origin of these molecules is extremely difficult, scientists say, with no other evidence pointing to living things on Mars.
  • Analyzing whether a methane molecule came from a living thing or geology may mean digging into its isotopic composition, but even then it is not a safe means of fire to confirm the discovery to the discovery, researchers say.
  • The 2020 rover plans to cache clip samples for possible return to Earth on a future mission to confirm all possible discoveries that point to life.

"There is always this uncertainty when we look at Mars."

– NASA scientist Lindsay Hays to Axios

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