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Mars could have harboured life underground

Credits: apture Youtube / NASA Goddard

A recent study suggests that 4 billion years ago, hydrogen-based dissolved energy could have been found on Mars underground.  According to scientists this energy could have been capable of maintaining the development of microbial life.  The details of the study are published in the Earth et Planetary Science Letters journal.

Our planet has subterranean microbial ecosystems which draws energy by extracting electrons from molecules in their surrounding environment.  On our planet – or perhaps we should say – under our planet, the majority of these electrons are extracted from dissolved molecular hydrogen. The next question we need to ask:  did this dissolved hydrogen exist under the surface of Mars? According the recent study the answer is yes. The authors of the study believe that around 4 billion years ago Mars could have had similar concentrations to what we have on Earth today allowing many microbes thrive.

We showed, based on basic physics and chemistry calculations, that the ancient Martian subsurface likely had enough dissolved hydrogen to power a global subsurface biosphere,” explained Jesse Tarnas, a graduate student at Brown University and lead author of a study.  She continued, “Conditions in this habitable zone would have been similar to places on Earth where underground life exists.”

Whatever the case, this study does not confirm the past existence of life on Mars but suggests that millions of years ago there could have been the right underground conditions for microbial life to develop.  Researchers believe that the global subsurface habitable zone could have even been several kilometers thick under the surface.

This study could therefore allows biologists and astronomers to concentrate research on a past Martian life on several more precise zones.   “One of the most interesting options for exploration is looking at megabreccia blocks—chunks of rock that were excavated from underground via meteorite impacts,” the researcher continued. “Many of them would have come from the depth of this habitable zone, and now they’re just sitting, often relatively unaltered, on the surface.”

Everything is falling into place.  Two of NASA’s chosen sites for the it’s next mission Mars 2020 – Northeast Syrtis Major et Midway – have this type of underground rock. The rover could one day come across a lucky sample which could reveal a past extraterrestrial life on Mars.  NASA’s Mars mission is scheduled for July 2020.

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