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article imageLife possible on 'large part of Mars' says study

By Samuel Okocha     Dec 12, 2011 in Science
Life is possible on a “large part” of Mars, said Australian scientists who modelled conditions on Mars to examine how much of the red planet was habitable.
Only one percent of the Earth’s volume, from core to upper atmosphere, is habitable, AFP reports. But, after comparing models of temperature and pressure conditions on Earth with those on Mars, Charley Lineweaver's team from the Australian National University concluded that three percent of Mars is habitable, though most of it underground.
"What we tried to do, simply, was take almost all of the information we could and put it together and say 'is the big picture consistent with there being life on Mars?'," the astrobiologist told AFP on Monday. "And the simple answer is yes... There are large regions of Mars that are compatible with terrestrial life."
The scientist, who had sought to have an estimate of how much of the neighboring planet was livable for Earth-like organisms, said his research was a "comprehensive compilation" of the entire planet using decades of data.
Conditions underground in Mars
With the surface temperature on Mars at minus 63 degrees Celsius, Mars has a low-pressure environment which prevents water from existing as a liquid on the surface, AFP reports.
Lineweaver however says that the conditions are right underground because the weight of the soil gives the added pressure required.
At certain depths, bacteria and other micro-organisms are therefore able to thrive due to heat from the planet's core.
Significance of finding
According to AFP, Lineweaver said his study was "the best estimate yet published of how habitable Mars is to terrestrial microbes." This is a significant finding if one sympathizes with the fact that mankind had evolved from microbial life, he explains.
"If you're interested in the origin of life and how likely life is to get started on other planets, that's what's relevant here"
Thoughts on NASA's Curiosity Rover
The astrobiolgist gave his thoughts on the mission of NASA’s Curiosity Rover to Mars.
"Our conclusion is that the best way to find water, or potentially microbes, on Mars is to dig," Newstrack India quoted Charley Lineweaver as saying. "Sadly, NASA's Curiosity Rover, which is scheduled to land on Mars in August, has a limited capacity to scratch the surface 10 or 20 centimeters," he added.
More about Mars, Charley Lineweaver, Australian national university
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