Large underground lake confirmed on Mars, three more small lakes found


Now, however, according to Mollet, there is again hope that life may not be found everywhere as on earth, but that more favorable conditions can be found in a number of small or less small places.

And the surface on Mars seems appropriate for that. After all, the planet has a very thin atmosphere that offers hardly any protection against the sun, and Mars also has no magnetic field. On Earth, that magnetic field bends cosmic rays so that life is protected, but on the surface of Mars you are fully exposed to particle radiation from space. Not underground, Mollet said, and so if we ever found a colony on Mars, we would do it underground.

Above all, however, favorable conditions mean liquid water. Finding water doesn’t imply that there is life, Mollet said, but the reverse is probably true: if you don’t have water, you can almost forget it. And that is why this is hopeful.

How should this be further investigated? With drillings? This poses an ethical problem, Mollet said, because there is always the risk of contamination.

This problem also arises here on earth, the Russians have concrete plans to drill into the gigantic Vostok Lake under the ice cover in Antarctica. It’s easier here on Earth than on Mars, but here too there is the risk of contamination, contaminating it with bacteria that could be on the drill bit, no matter how well you disinfect it, Mollet said.

And then if you then discovered life in the water, you can never be sure that you did not bring it in yourself, he said.

Now that is not for tomorrow anyway. Getting the equipment needed for such drilling to be collected in an inhospitable place like Antarctica is quite a feat, and the problems of sending the necessary material to Mars are even greater. Drilling through a mile of ice on Mars to reach the water below is something we will not be able to accomplish any time soon with our current resources.

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