Daring mission to find life on Mars

Ancient lake: The Mars 2020 rover will land in a crater that was once fed by numerous rivers. © NASA

It’s official! A new American mission will launch next year. It will fly to the Red Planet to search for signs of life. If there ARE little green men up there, we will soon find them.

What’s happening

Nasa, the US space agency responsible for putting humans on the Moon, is getting ready to launch its newest interplanetary mission, Mars 2020. The goal? To find life.

The plan is to land a high-tech rover on the Red Planet. It will have 23 cameras, huge wheels, and will be accompanied by a drone.

Find out more

It is one of the great questions of science; one that has inspired songs, TV shows, and conspiracy theories.

Space agencies and private companies alike are setting their sights on sending people to Mars. So the time is ripe to know if we will be sharing the Red Planet with any aliens.

This time, astrobiology is front and centre of the mission. The rover will look for signs of life, collect Martian soil, and attempt to synthesise oxygen out of the CO2-heavy atmosphere on Mars.

Private space companies are also thriving. For example, billionaire Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk has his sights set on colonising Mars.

But finding life would be a bigger breakthrough than any of these other projects.

So, can we finally unlock the mystery of Mars?

Some say…

Yes. This new mission is deploying the latest technology, with the primary goal of looking for traces of life and bringing back samples of Martian soil. Science will give us an answer. If life had ever been widespread, it would have left some mark. Otherwise, we can be fairly sure that there was never any significant life on Mars.

Others think…

No. The mystery of life on Mars has captivated humanity for centuries. It will be almost impossible to prove that life never existed there. Even when we colonise the planet, we will still be obsessed by uncovering the secrets of its past. We still do not know all the forms that life could take in our complicated and fascinating Universe.

You Decide

  1. Is finding life on Mars something that we should be spending millions on in 2020? Are there not more important things for governments to focus on?

Activities

  1. Imagine that the 2020 mission to Mars fails. Write a proposal on behalf of Nasa asking for more funding, explaining why the mission matters.

Some People Say...

“I think the generation today is the Mars generation.”

Dr Jim Green, Nasa chief scientist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Nasa
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the US, responsible for the civilian space programme, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.
Rover
A device specifically engineered to explore the surface of an object in space.
Red Planet
Another name for Mars, which often looks red to the naked eye because of the iron-rich minerals which cover its surface.
Astrobiology
The study of alien life-forms.
Synthesise
Creates something new, usually through chemistry.
CO2
Carbon Dioxide, a common gas which makes up 5% of the air we breathe out.
Atmosphere
The envelope of gases surrounding the earth or another planet.
Deploying
Using.
Primary
The main.

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