Episode 3: A Trip to Mars

Exploring the latest evidence for life on Mars and how we might find it.

In the latest edition of A Trip to Space we take a trip to Mars, wrapping up some of the latest research on life on the Red Planet and the sound of a helicopter flying in the Martian sky.

Is it posilble scientists have seen evidence of mushrooms and algae growing on Mars? Probably not, but a team of scientists believe that’s exactly what they’ve spotted.

In a new paper the group shared pictures they believe showing fungi growing out of Martian soil, although NASA and other scientists say they’re simply rocks – there are no mushrooms in the images.

Sticking with Mars, and with images of the Martian surface, in a slightly more credible take, another team of scientists claim to have spotted volcanic deposits on the surface of the Red Planet.

These deposits were left within the past 50,000 years, teasing the possibility of relatively recent, and possibly even ongoing, volcanic activity on Mars – which would suggest evidence of current microbial life.

They say this evidence ‘absolutely raises the possibility that there could still be volcanic activity on Mars‘ and of habitable conditions under the Martian surface.  

So what are we doing to find life? Well the NASA Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter are currently in the Jezero crater and now Ingenuity has proven its worth as a Martian flying machine, the search for past life can begin.

During its fourth test flight, the Perseverance rover used its microphones to record the sound of the helicopter in flight – you can just hear it amongst the wind.

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Ingenuity in flight

Speaking of Perseverance, why is it in the Jezero crater and what will it be doing to bring samples of Mars rock back to the Earth in the future? I pulled together a few NASA clips to explain more.

The first is a lander mission. It carries three major elements: a Sample Fetch Rover and a Sample Transfer Arm that lets you transfer the samples from the Fetch Rover into the rocket, and a Mars Ascent Vehicle which is a rocket that brings the samples from Mars into space.

Meanwhile, the orbiter has also launched from Earth in 2026 and is making its way towards Mars and it’ll be in position by the time the rocket’s fully loaded. The orbiter will then go to the sample container that the rocket’s put into space and then capture it, ultimately bringing them to Earth in 2031.

Austin Nicholas, Mars Sample Return mission

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