They warn that Mars “imitates life” and can fool scientists

Scientists acknowledge that the relentless search for life in Mars they can lead us in the wrong directions when we attach clues or certain bio-like substances. Therefore, the current and future missions of explorers such as the Perseverance they require highly qualified technology to avoid these risks.

That said, Sean McMahon from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and Julie Cosmidis from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford (UK) cautioned that experts should be very attentive to the findings on Mars, exactly with the fossils of microscopic organisms.

Both propose, according to an article published in the Journal of the Geological Society to improve exploration strategies, in order to evaluate candidate biological signatures on the fourth planet of the solar system, through new knowledge of physics and chemistry of abiotic processes (without life ) in the field of geology.

Although the Perseverance rover, for example, is equipped with mechanisms that allow it to extract promising geological samples – they will bring them to Earth in joint NASA and ESA operations – what worries the researchers is “the risk of false positive errors in the detection of life ”, something“ frequent ”in the history of astrobiology.

In 2022, the ESA-RosCosmos ExoMars mission and its rover Rosalind Franklin, a six-wheeler and 300 kg, will join to search for biological patterns on the surface of the red planet. The spacecraft will have a drill capable of extracting rock samples, at a depth of up to two meters. In addition, it will move through the peripheries of Oxia Planum, a plain of Mars. The ‘false fossils’ neither would they be oblivious to its potential discoveries, according to the study’s signatories.

“For every type of fossil that exists, there is at least one non-biological process that creates very similar things, so there is a real need to improve our understanding of how they are formed,” McMahon said.

The production of ‘chemical gardens’ in the Martian environment, complex biological-looking structures created from inorganic chemicals, add to the difficulties highlighted in the words of specialists. Different types of minerals are also combined on that planet.

“We have been fooled by processes that mimic life in the past,” Cosmidis said. Then he recalled that microbes have been detected several times in ancient rocks on Earth and even in meteorites on Mars. However, it was confirmed that the origins were not biological.

“This article is a warning in which we ask for more research on the imitation processes of life on Mars, to avoid falling into the same traps over and over again,” said Julie Cosmidis.