While NASA’s InSight spacecraft successfully landed on Mars and began studying its surface, Dr Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist and researcher at the University of Westminster, said that another upcoming mission to the Red Planet has a “very good chance” of finding signs of life there.
As Dartnell explained, upon landing, the rover will drill two meters into the Martian surface in order to reach the depth which "has been protected from the harsh conditions on Mars" and extract soil samples that, hopefully, may contain "bacteria that can break down molecules."
"We are looking for the building blocks of life and to see if life on Mars has been there before. We want to look to see how warm and how wet it has been. It would be more great evidence that Mars was a warmer and wetter world and it was once like Earth," the scientist said.
He also pointed out that at this point it remains unclear whether life actually exists on Mars, and if it does, “how similar is it to Earth”.
"Is it really alien? Is it fundamentally different? Or does it just completely function in a different way? The sort of life we expect to find are single-cells or hardy bacteria. That first kind of life is a microbial kind of life. What would excite me is to find something that had survived on Mars and bring it back to Earth to study and see how it works," Dartnell remarked.
Earlier this year, a team of Italian researchers discovered a salt lake on Mars, which, due to it containing liquid water located under the ice which “protected from seasonal temperature variations”, could theoretically serve as a habitat for local lifeforms.