We have not abandoned the hope of finding present life on Mars


Patricia BioscaSEGUIRMadrid Updated: Save Send news by mail electrónicoTu name *

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In the absence of a few hours for Mars 2020 launch its way to Mars from Cape Canaveral, is Germán Martínez , co-principal investigator of the mission, the more ambitious of the NASA on the red planet to date, answers to the questions of ABC from his lab in Houston, the Lunar and Planetary Institute of the agency for aerospace america. He has formed part of the development of the instrument Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), the Spanish accent of the project, devised by the Astrobiology Centre in Madrid . And before she had another task: to define the scientific requirements of the other onboard instruments, the Thermal Infrared Sensor, or TIRS , that will measure for the first time the greenhouse effect on our neighboring planet.

“One of the main challenges before we send humans to Mars is to be able to predict “the time”, especially storms, regional and even global dust. To do this, the models of weather prediction on Mars need to know with accuracy the amount of energy on the surface (that is to say, the short-wave solar radiation, and atmospheric long-wave, that reaches the surface of Mars). These measures will be provided by the TIRS,” he explains. Once on the martian soil, if all goes well after the trip that today takes to the Mars 2020, will be in charge of the analysis of the data

– What are the questions we hope to answer with the Mars 2020?

The most important thing is to ” what was there life on Mars? “. To do this, the rover Perseverance has two instruments, Sherloc, and PIXL, designed to identify, within the crater Jezero, environments habitable billions of years ago. That is to say, environments with a few geological features and chemical favorable for the development of life as we know it on Earth. Once identified, the Perseverance you will want to locate rocks which have a high probability of preserving biomarkers of past life. Finally, the rover will search for such biomarkers in these rocks. It is important to clarify that these biomarkers include organic matter and minerals, as well as variations of features in the texture and chemical composition of the samples, caused by the presence of past life.

– What is the difference between the rover Perseverance of the rest of earlier vehicles sent to Mars?

The Perseverance on account with the instrumentation most advanced ever sent to another planet. That said, I would highlight three main differences. For the first time on Mars, the Perseverance will store around 30 samples of martian soil (about 10 grams per sample) in sealed tubes and sterilized. These samples will be duly buried it to make sure its correct conservation, and later (in the next decade) brought back to our planet for analysis in laboratories more powerful. In the second place, the Perseverance includes an instrument specifically designed to facilitate future human settlements on Mars. This instrument, called Moxie, will demonstrate that it is possible the generation of oxygen from carbon dioxide (main gas in the martian atmosphere). In the third place, Perseverance includes a helicopter called Ingenuity. Once there, the Ingenuity will become the first artifact flying on Mars using solar energy. As the atmosphere is very thin, it is technologically complicated to make flying devices on the planet (due to lack of “friction” air). The Ingenuity will open the doors to the development of drones that sobrevolarán Mars in the future.

“Given current environmental conditions on Mars, it is more likely that there is life present in its subsurface than in the surface”

– it Seems that the missions are directed more to look for past life to present. What science has dropped a little hope?

we have Not abandoned hope, we are simply accumulating knowledge and contributing to the development of a technology that will allow it to undertake the search for present life. That is to say, given current environmental conditions on Mars, it is more likely that there is life present in its subsurface than in the surface itself. Unlike our planet, Mars lacks a magnetic field a global and in an atmosphere sufficiently dense to prevent the arrival of high-energy radiation harmful to life. This problem would not be at some depth in the subsurface, where this harmful radiation would not be enough to penetrate. However, it is not simple from a technological point of view to design instruments that can penetrate several meters into the subsurface to search for present life. In addition, there is to go step by step. The first thing is to understand the environmental conditions on the surface and the physical-chemical properties of its soil, to then venture into the sub-surface with the support of the technological development.

– Some of his works are centered in brines on mars and the possibility that there exists life.

Our recent findings [Martinez is one of the authors of one of the last articles published in the journal “Nature ” Astronomy”] indicate that both the surface of Mars as its first meter of the subsurface are not habitable for life as we know it on Earth. That is to say, although it is possible that it may form a brine at the surface and sub-surface shallow, it would be too cold to support life. And yet, in the face of future human settlements, it is very important to know where and when they can form a brine on the red planet.

“we’ve Not done more than scratch the surface of Mars in eight points. It is a whole world to discover”

– And, apart from the possible life, what other secrets it still keeps the red planet?

we have Not done more than scratch the surface in eight points. It is a whole world to discover. With a future network of weather satellites like the Earth, we will be able to predict the weather around the red planet. With future human settlements, we will be able to understand the mysteries of its surface of a more simple and efficient than by the analysis of data sent by rovers. With future missions aimed at subsurface of mars, we will discover if there is life present outside of the Earth… You name it, that it is said in English.

“If the major powers would have maintained the investment in the space of the 60s, perhaps we would have reached Mars”

– what The man will be prepared to travel to Mars in the next decade?

it Is possible, but the answer is not only in science but also in politics and in the economy. If the major powers would have maintained the investment in the space of 60 years, maybe we would have already reached Mars. At the current pace, I think that it is possible that pisemos Mars the following decade. Let’s hope so. However, no one assures us that the economy or the policy will not go to hell… In this sense, it is important to make it clear to the population that the investment in space is not a whim. The return of scientific space missions in our everyday lives is immense. For example, medical and technological advances that have increased our quality and length of life. Anyway, I think that we should not focus only on practical aspects of science. The curiosity and hunger to discover it defines man. Our interest in exploring the unknown is not subject to taxation or economic policies, though of course that is affected…

“We have a lot of time watching the Moon and Mars, as to not get there. It would be against our nature”

– however, many postulate to Mars as a future human base standing. Is that possible?

Yes, but we have to start with the Moon. Once we establish a “gas station” lunar, the next step will be Mars. Whether for scientific reasons or economic, I think that humans establish permanent settlements on both the Moon and on Mars. We took a lot of time watching the Moon and Mars, as to not get there. It would be against our nature.

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