NASA Hunts for Fossils on Mars

Mars, NASA Hunt for FossilsThe topography of Mars will bring scientists closer to the truth about life on this desolate, or maybe not so desolate, planet. The diversity of geologic formations continues to pave the way for endless investigations and research. To solve the mystery of what kind of life existed, the understanding of rock formation and chemistry are some of the essential studies in NASA’s hunt for fossils on Mars.

Currently, two active rovers are on Mars and are located on different sides of the planet. One of these rovers is known as Curiosity which landed in 2012, and the other, Opportunity, which landed in 2004. These machines are able to analyze the environment and send reports and footage back down to Earth. A similar expedition took place during the late 70s called the Viking experiments where two landers with robotic arms took samples in an attempt to search for metabolism of organic material. The findings of this particular mission were inconclusive until the Phoenix lander in 2008 explored the planet, and in doing so, discovered perchlorate; the substance is known to break down organic compounds.

The modern rovers today have maintained functionality and continue to bring NASA more and more information that can be used in their research.

The Power of Science: Tens of millions of dollars were invested in Curiosity’s mission alone. The science put into this car-sized rover has been used to discover Mars’ ancient secrets.  Elizabeth Landow at CNN speaks on some of these striking discoveries NASA has encountered in the hunt for life and fossils on Mars. She reports NASA scientists believe there is a very good chance life could have existed on the red planet, and if not of advanced “Martian” bi-pedals, something else less complex; something known as a chemolithoautotraph.

George Rice of Montana State University explains, the chemolithoautotraph is a bacterial microbe that obtains the necessary carbon for metabolic processes from the carbon dioxide in their environment.   In other words, this microorganism does not use the sun for energy, and it makes its own food through chemical reaction. So if life did exist, it is very likely that this autotraph was present in the very minimal of circumstances; however,  John Grotzinger, lead scientist on the Curiosity mission believes the state of Mars has definitively been habitable at one point, but this does not mean it was inhabited.

At this very moment in time, the Opportunity rover rests at a location known as the Endeavor Crater. The rover was guided to this location by remarkable geological signals detected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It is at this crater that Opportunity has analyzed minerals in the rock bedding which have been found to be smectite clay.  Scientists say this particular mineral can only have developed during a time when there was a large presence of water.

With water and the right conditions, comes life.  When Curiosity joined Opportunity in 2012, she was able to affirm the previous hypothesis of a past presence of water bodies. This newer model rover is capable of much more analysis than her NASA engineered predecessor, as she is well prepared to find and analyze the smallest of molecules. She landed on Gale Crater and discovered similar findings as Opportunity discovered at the Endeavor Crater.  Additionally, Curiosity helped scientists realize a location on Mars known as, Yellowknife Bay, is a place of very high mineral count, and likely to have supported life. This is an area that could have sustained various forms of life by way of “a lake-stream-groundwater system that might have existed for millions of years,” -Grotzinger. It is at this specific location on Mars that the NASA hunt for fossilized organisms might come back fruitful.

One still cannot say whether or not there was intelligent life on Mars.  Researches veer on the conservative side saying it is better to assume only microorganisms existed, if anything at all; however, one cannot leave out an important image that has caught many peoples’ eye. NASA image, PSP_007781.

NASA Fossil hunt If there was a time “Martians” did exist, most scientists would concur that the species would have existed, most probably, during the million year “reign” of water bodies and a strong atmosphere. Mars being 4.5 billion years old, anything can be imagined possible.

In this photo, many believe that these squares were made by intelligent farmers, eons upon eras ago. – Squares of Mars—Evidence of a lost intelligent species dominion by Gary Proffitt.

What does Mars look like in person? The writer at describes Mars as having canyons at least 5 times deeper than the Grand Canyon, volcanoes larger than Mount Everest, endless sand dunes, cream-colored skies, and thick fog which fills the valleys.

Curiosity is now on her way to Mount Sharp as NASA prepares the next rover to launch in 2020. Grotzinger explains how the Curiosity rover will show the team exactly how organic compounds are preserved in rocks. In turn, this will lead to the discovery of the process through which skeletons could have been geologically stored, and where they can be found. So NASA continues the hunt for fossils on Mars while scientists battle for answers.

By Lindsey Alexander

Viking Project
Spaceflight Insider

13 Responses to "NASA Hunts for Fossils on Mars"

  1. Gary Proffitt   February 13, 2014 at 8:50 am

    I have created a youtube video so that everyone can enjoy
    this beautiful and special place in our solar system.

  2. Gary Proffitt   February 8, 2014 at 10:21 am

    I made a much better Image of Quadrata Martis espically for online readers and publication purposes that has been scaled and rotated 20.5 degrees though it took my pc to the limit
    it was worth it as the display is wonderful and a must see for all mankind if it proves to be of scientific interest later.Please click below and hope you all enjoy this great mystery of Mars.

  3. Gary Proffitt   February 4, 2014 at 2:36 am

    Wow, readers as the finder of these amazing plots of intelligently made areas of Martian land, I could not believe my eyes today when read about the history of Mars as known to the Romans as a God and had I found these in there time Rome would of rejoiced at this incredible evidence.
    The reason for this is that Mars was essentially an agricultural god. He was called Mars Gradivus, ‘to become big, to grow’ but became the god of war later. When I named this area Quadrata Martis I had no idea that in Roman mythology, At Rome where he was worshipped as Mars, he had a sacrarium on the Palatine Hill in the Roma Quadrata of Romulus.This is simply amazing when you put it all together and I am now so happy that I named this area in what I saw which was squares of land with a strange 25 metre face that is something that you should all see here if you click below,and though you are probably not romans I thank you for reading.

  4. Gary Proffitt   February 3, 2014 at 6:35 am

    Wikipedia- Geologic temperature record-The faint young sun paradox!
    “Research of Earth’s historical Environment”

    “The initially low solar radiation, if combined with modern values of greenhouse gases, would not have been sufficient to allow for liquid oceans on the surface of the Earth. However, evidence of liquid water at the surface has been demonstrated as far back as 3,500 million years ago. This is known as the faint young sun paradox and is usually explained by invoking much larger greenhouse gas concentrations in Earth’s early history, though such proposals are poorly constrained by existing experimental evidence.”

  5. Gary Proffitt   February 3, 2014 at 6:11 am

    May I remind all people in respect to speculating Mars historical chemical capacity to sustain “Earth” variants of life that are also speculated as the only possible, that there is no general consensus as to the exact date that Earth had liquid water and an Atmosphere that could sustain differing types of Life even though we have the evidence in the rocks to suggest it occurred as there is simply no way confirming this currently using all advanced types of chemical research and you may all check “wikipedia , Ice ages and global temperatures” to see this hard fact for yourselves.In conclusion I think there are more intellectual smoke screens and mirrors on Mars than meet the eye .

  6. Wilf Tarkin   February 2, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Google, why are you sending people here? This isn’t science, this is space-alien nuttery, and currently ALL but two links in your “science” section point to this hazel-flavored blog.

  7. Terence Clark   February 2, 2014 at 10:12 am

    “In this photo, many believe that these squares were made by intelligent farmers, eons upon eras ago.”

    Mars has some pretty potent wind storms that deposit sand across the entire surface of Mars. Any trace of agriculture made “eons upon eras ago” would be good and buried by now. Those are fairly common features in normal, natural geological processes. We do see exposed rock and our rovers are studying it, but not features on that sort of a macro scale. If they were anything at all, they would have been preserved for a few centuries, perhaps a millennium or two, but not “eons upon eras”. If there was or possibly is life on Mars it was likely microscopic or if it is multicellular (or something similar) it is almost certainly buried.

    • Terence Clark   February 2, 2014 at 10:15 am

      I should clarify, we do see large scale exposed rock, but not usually a single surface. Mount Sharp, for instance, exposes a very large outcrop, but it is multilayered and represents multiple eras separated by thousands or millions of years.

  8. straw walker   February 2, 2014 at 8:28 am

    One problem involving life on Mars that is hard to overcome, is the lack of Methane gas found in the atmosphere of Mars.

  9. Jakob Stagg   February 2, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Great! How many billions is that going to cost the tax payer? We have problems here on this planet that those billions might help correct. Even if there are fossils found on Mars, we aren’t moving there. However, if we found something that would infect humans with intelligence, it might be worth it.

    • Terence Clark   February 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      Of all the programs we have that cost us taxpayer money, the space program is one of the smallest and one of the best values for your dollar. I get that a dollar’s a dollar and the 17 billion total NASA gets in a given year seems like a lot. But consider for a second that for that 17 billion right now they are steering probes to Jupiter, Pluto and Ceres, the largest asteroid. We also have two rovers on Mars, several orbiters around it, an orbiter around the Moon, an orbiter around Saturn, several probes in solar orbits monitoring activity on the sun and countless probes around Earth doing everything from predicting weather to analyzing ocean composition and temperatures. It also has two of the most powerful telescopes ever used in operation. Oh and they are also funding multiple private spaceflight companies and building the most powerful rocket ever to fly. You may not agree with any of that, but unfortunately in a democracy one guy on the internet doesn’t get to make those calls. But it’s pretty hard to argue that NASA is a waste of money in terms of what they do with the comparatively tiny budget they have. What value you put on those activities is a different matter.

  10. Stevean Universe   February 2, 2014 at 7:01 am


  11. Apophis Barber   February 2, 2014 at 2:10 am

    You will find what you are looking for in the caves.


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