Even if no sign of life has been discovered on the Martian ground, new research from astrophysicist and scientist Dimitra Atri details that conditions below the surface might support it. Atri is part of the Center for Space Science team at NYU Abu Dhabi.
The so-called subsurface – less harsh, with traces of water – has never been investigated. The mighty bombardment of penetrating GCRs (galactic cosmic rays) could offer the energy required to catalyze organic activity there. Here is what you need to know.
What Could Exist Below Mars’ Ground?
Astrophysicist and research scientist Dimitra Atri examined the biological potential of radiation-driven chemical, galactic cosmic-ray-induced disequilibrium in the Martian subsurface environment. There is significant proof indicating the presence of an aqueous environment on early Mars, raising the possibility of a life-supporting environment.
The erosion of Mars’ atmosphere resulted in severe changes in the climate. For instance, the surface water disappeared, shrinking habitable areas on the Red Planet, with a limited amount of water present close to the surface as water ice and brine deposits. If it ever existed, it would have had to adapt to tough modern conditions, including surface pressure, high radiation, and low temperatures.
Mars’ subsurface contains water ice and brines and experiences radiation-driven redox chemistry. Utilizing space mission data, numerical models, and studies of deep-cave ecosystems on Earth for his research, Atri introduces a mechanism through which life (if it ever existed on Mars) could survive and be found with the next ExoMars mission (2022). The ESA and Roscosmos developed such mission.
“When the Rosalind Franklin rover onboard the ExoMars mission, equipped with a subsurface drill, is launched in 2022, it will be well-suited to detect extant microbial life and hopefully provide some important insights,” stated Atri.
Finally, Atri hypothesizes that galactic cosmic radiation that can infiltrate lots of meters below the surface will produce chemical reactions that can be utilized for metabolic energy by living life. Also, host organisms using mechanisms found in similar chemical and radiation environments on our planet.