As the Curiosity rover begins its study of the Red Planet, scientists say that the answers it find there could give us answers to some bigger questions about our universe. The Mars Society founder Robert Zurbin tells Daily Galaxy that Mars could serve as a “Rosetta Stone” for whether or not there is life on other planets.
“If life will develop wherever it has a decent planet, it means that the universe is filled with life,” Zubrin says, “And if life is everywhere, it means intelligence is everywhere. It means we’re living in an inhabited universe. This is something that thinking men and women have wondered about for thousands of years, and we can find out the answer to this if by going to Mars.”
Our planetary neighbor once had gravity, an atmosphere, and liquid water in great abundance. According to Zubrin, if life is indeed a natural, chemical development wherever liquid water, reasonable temperatures and various minerals occur, then why shouldn’t it have appeared on Mars?
On Mars, as on Earth, methane is extremely unstable because it’s continually being broken up by ultraviolet rays from the Sun and chemical reactions with other gases. The average life of a methane molecule on Mars is 400 years, which means the gas must be continually replenished or it will disappear. Something is producing methane on Mars today -the big question is: What? There is potentially a vast biosphere a few meters below Mars’ surface, which the Viking mission may not have been able to access since it was only scratching the surface of the uppermost layer of soil.