• A study questions the effectiveness of scientific instruments sent to the red planet in search of signs of extraterrestrial life

The search for life in Tuesday It will be more difficult than expected. According to a new investigation carried out on an old riverbed in the Atacama Desert (Chile), the current detection instruments of life sent to the red planet can’t be sensitive enough to find signs of life in the dusty Martian soil. Or put another way, the current generation of scientific missions It is difficult, if not impossibleto find remains of past or present life on Mars.

The study, led by researchers from the Center for Astrobiology (CAB-CSIC), is based on a series of analysis carried out in the chilean atacama desert since this region, according to the experts, has certain similarities with the red planet. Especially in the area known as ‘Red stone’: an ancient river delta that formed 100 million years ago under arid conditions in the Jurassic and that, at least on paper, is «geologically similar» to the terrain being explored by the Perseverance rover on Mars.

Once drawing these parallels, the researchers deployed a series of replicas of the instruments sent to Mars over the Chilean desert to see what was found. The modified machinery will successfully identify a variety of interbedded sediments of sandstone and clay typical of a fluvial bed among which stands out, among others, the presence of hematite: an iron oxide that is what gives Mars its characteristic red color.

The experts, aware that a great variety of microorganisms exist in the Chilean desert, tried to detect the presence of these biosignatures with the help of Martian scientific instruments. The result? In some cases failed to detect life indicators and in many others they were at the limit of their discovery. This, according to experts, would indicate that the current generation of missions to Mars would not be able to find the long-awaited markers of extraterrestrial life.

Sample collection

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Now that, according to this new study published in the ‘Nature’ magazineWe know that Martian missions do not have the necessary tools to find signs of life on Mars, the question is what do we do to continue looking for signs of life outside our planet. The experts from the Center for Astrobiology suggest that a possible solution would be collect martian soil samples and bring them back to Earth so that, once here, can be examined in terrestrial laboratories.

The world’s major space agencies, such as NASA or the European Space Agency (ESA), have already launched missions along these lines. At this time, in fact, the Martian SUV Perseverance is already collecting a series of samples from the martian soil and these depositing in different strategic points so that a future mission can pick them up and bring them to our planet. The famous ‘Mars Sample Return’ mission is expected to take off in 2026, the objective of which will be to bring back the first samples of material from another planet.