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Doctoral candidate Andrew Gangidine is working with UC geology professor Andrew Czaja to develop a marker for ancient bacterial life on Mars. The research could help scientists put to rest one of our most fundamental mysteries.
"We're trying to answer the question: How rare is life in the universe?" Gangidine said.
Czaja - Assistant - Professor - UC - McMicken
Czaja, an assistant professor in UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, serves on a NASA advisory committee that will decide where on Mars to send the next remote-controlled rover. Among other objectives, the rover will look for evidence that life once existed on the red planet. The advisory committee has narrowed the list of landing-site candidates to three and will recommend a finalist later this year.
Meanwhile, Gangidine is studying microbial life in silica hot springs to come up with a useful indicator of life on Mars. For the past two years, he has conducted fieldwork in the geyser basins of Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park to examine what elements are associated with bacteria that live in these geothermal pools.
People - Life - Mars - Gangidine - Others
"We want to remain objective. Some people think there has to be life on Mars," Gangidine said. "Others think there certainly isn't life on Mars. And either side has a good chance of being correct. Both have valid arguments. Which is why if we go there and don't see anything, it won't be 'mission fail.'"
Gangidine presented his research April 25 at the Second International Mars Sample Return conference in Berlin, Germany.
Today - Life - Mars - Surface - Radiation
Today, we know that life cannot exist on Mars, at least not on its dry surface. Solar radiation split most of its surface water into its elemental parts nearly 3 billion years ago when the red planet lost its protective magnetic field.
But scientists are debating whether life might exist somewhere deep underground, among pockets of water trapped around geothermal areas similar to Yellowstone's...
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