Life on Mars, What's the Truth? There's no surfeit of literary and cinematic entertainment dealing with fictional accounts of life in the third planet nearest the sun, Mars, named after the God of war in Greek mythology. As early as the 17th century, astronomers have observed polar ice caps that grow and shrink with the season as well as other similarities with earth like a similar tilt in the axis of rotation, about the same length of day but with a longer year.
In addition, it had dark and light features on its surface that could distinguish land and water masses. Mars became a fertile ground for speculative thought that it supported life or even human-like creatures that promptly spawned many Sci-Fi stories about life on the plant.
Dousing the Speculation:
As early as the mid-60s, the Mariner 4 probes had shown that Mar has no global magnetic field that the earth has. This only means that its surface is open to deadly cosmic radiation and solar winds that makes life impossible. The Mars Global Surveyor made in the 90s confirmed this finding. Without any kind of shielding, the solar winds have, over the course of millions of years, stripped the planet of any atmosphere that can sustain life.
Over the years since then, a number of probes have been sent on the planet. In 2006, the Mars Global Surveyor showed the possibility that water existed with changes in craters and sediment deposits that point to some form of erosion caused by water.
Many scientist debunk this as materials like sand and dust that can erode and produce the same results. The Phoenix from NASA confirmed frozen water in sub-surface ice which the digging action of the lander caused to sublimate when exposed to the atmosphere.
Exploring the Promise:
Regardless of what other substances were found on the surface, like methane, Formaldehyde, Silica, as brought home by the various unmanned expedition to Martian surface, they are merely evidence of what might have been and geologic speculation that life could have existed in the past. But with the current cosmic radiation bombarding the planet without end, it is plain that no life can exist on the Martian surface.
But this hasn't deterred progressive scientists into proposing ways to colonize the planet to make it a second home to humans. The notion of terraforming the planet under some form of protective umbrella against cosmic storms is already a subject of serious study.
Mars remains the only planet in the solar system closest to the habitable conditions on earth, though much of that really can't sustain life as we know it. But with some ingenious and creative engineering effort to simulate a magnetic field or manage the cosmic onslaught, as well as radical advances in space flight, the possibility of colonizing the planet need not be as remote as before. Article by Robert W. Benjamin