The tantalising prospect of life on Mars may have come to light with researchers finding evidence of an existing body of liquid water in a huge lake under the planet’s south polar ice cap. Mars has for long been the focus of imaginative science fiction, stoking man’s eternal curiosity on whether he is alone in the Universe. It appears the presence of liquid water may suggest life could have existed in Mars when it was more of a hospitable planet some 3.5 billion years ago than now, when it has cooled due to its thin atmosphere. There may be much to be verified about this finding by a radar instrument on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter, but it may prove inspiring.
It has long been assumed that the Martian surface is inhospitable to life as we know it on Earth, and the search for life has gone subsurface now. “Follow the water” has been the mantra for scientists studying potential life beyond Earth. With so much being spent already on studying Mars — to where India sent a stunning mission on a shoestring budget — such findings should be exciting enough to inspire further research and funding. The idea has been floated by many, including Stephen Hawking, and subscribed to by the likes of pioneering space businessman Elon Musk, that for humanity to survive a catastrophic armageddon on Earth, it would have to inhabit some other planet. Mars has been the premier destination on the radar of humans. In fact, the United States was hoping to land humans on Mars in the 2030s for which, of course, there would have to be quantum leaps in technology and funding.