Discovered! The clues to life on Mars

Extreme conditions: The Atacama Desert is in the north of Chile, a country in South America.

How exciting would it be to discover tiny forms of life on Mars? A rare rainstorm in one of the driest places on Earth has given us a clue to how life could exist on another planet.

What’s happening

The Atacama Desert in South America is the driest place on Earth outside Antarctica. Some places receive an average just one millimetre of rain a year. It was thought that nothing lived there. But a freak rainstorm in 2015 changed all that — and scientists believe it makes life on Mars more likely.

Find out more

The desert is the place on Earth most similar to Mars. There is nothing but soil and rock. This means that it is the best place to research how life could exist on the Red Planet.

After the rainstorm, scientists discovered microbes living in the desert.

Life as we know it cannot exist without water, and key to finding life on Mars is discovering water. Mars is in the middle of an ice age, so liquid water cannot exist on its surface. However, the planet seems to have been warmer and wetter in the past.

Winding channels that look like dry river beds have been seen in images taken from spacecraft. They suggest that huge amounts of water once flowed over the surface, possibly fed by melting ice.

How eager should we be to discover life on Mars?

Some say…

It would be incredible. Finding life on another planet would be one of humanity’s biggest ever achievements. It would solve one of our longest-standing questions: are we alone in the universe? It is our duty as humans to expand our knowledge and to study whatever life forms might exist on Mars, in the present and the past. We should find out everything we can about them.

Others think…

We should be very careful. Humans can have a terrible impact on other species on Earth. We have already made many go extinct. So imagine what we could do to untouched microbes from Mars. Instead we should concentrate on our own planet and seek to help our fellow creatures. Let’s learn from our mistakes and leave alien life alone.

You Decide

  1. Do you really, deep down, believe in alien life?

Activities

  1. Write down three questions you would ask an alien.

Some People Say...

“Mars should belong to the Martians.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Millimetre
There are ten millimetres in a centimetre, and there are 100 centimetres in a metre.
Microbes
Tiny creatures that cannot be seen without a microscope.
Expand
Make bigger.
Extinct
Go out of existence.

Subjects

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