• Question: Do you think that there is life on Mars, or on any other planets?

    Asked by gbeaubo to Alan, Caspar, Diana, Murray, Sarah on 24 Mar 2011. This question was also asked by cazzarb, 09datetia, lyfless.
    • Photo: Alan Winfield

      Alan Winfield answered on 19 Mar 2011:

      Yes, I think there probably is microbial life elsewhere in the solar system and the two best candidates are Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa (although I think there may be others). Why do I think this? Well we have lots of evidence from extremophiles found on Earth that microbial life can survive in extremely harsh environments – much more extreme than was first thought. For one example think of the amazing life found around the deep undersea thermal vents, called smokers: at the bottom of the food chain are chemo-synthetic bacteria – that are able to use sulphur compounds to produce organic material. I think the existence of extremophiles on Earth makes it more likely that simple microbial life exists on other planets, or moons. Of course if there are only microbes – and no bigger organisms – that makes them very hard to find and it’s not really surprising that the Mars rovers Sojourner, and more recently the amazing Spirit and Opportunity, have not found any evidence for life on Mars. But I think the next generation of Mars rovers such as ExoMars, and the planned sample-return missions that will collect and send Mars rocks back to Earth for analysis, are much more likely to find life.

    • Photo: Diana Drennan

      Diana Drennan answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      I think there are many more things for us to learn about life, what kinds of environments can support life, and all the endless variations it can have. There are many theories about where else we might find life in our solar system. One, is that Jupiter’s moon Europa could have liquid water under it’s mantle of ice. If it does, then it is possible that there is life in it’s oceans. Another theory is that there used to be liquid water on Mars, and that some of that liquid water is still there under the surface of Mars. If so, there may have been life on Mars, and there may yet be some traces there. I think all these sorts of theories are a lot of fun to think about and we may eventually find out that some of our theories are true. However, I don’t believe strongly either way – I’m willing to say “we don’t know” and wait till we find some evidence one way or another.

      I think much of science is like that – there is so much we just don’t know yet. That’s what makes science so much fun – because we get to work towards finding things out. We can work to fill in the pieces of information that will make it possible for us to find out even more.

    • Photo: Murray Collins

      Murray Collins answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      Gbeau – There’s no evidence at the moment. However, the best chance of finding life in our solar system may lie on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.

      You can read about it here:

    • Photo: Caspar Addyman

      Caspar Addyman answered on 21 Mar 2011:

      I think most of mars is too dry. But i wouldn’t be surprised if there was once very simple life there.

      Under the ice on Jupiter’s moon Europa is probably the only other place in our solar system that could support life. (again jsut very simple things like bacteria.)

      But is there intelligent life out there somewhere? Beyond our solar system.. Yes, I’d say almost certainly.. here’s another question on the topic. http://ias.im/35.82

    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 24 Mar 2011:

      There is evidence that suggests that at one time, microbes may have lived on mars.

      i don’t know what to think about life on other planets because one part of me thinks that surely there must be something else out there, we can’t be the only living planet in the whole universe, but then at the same time I can’t help wondering why we don’t have any evidence for other life, why we haven’t had any contact…