Life could exist beneath the surface of Mars, according to a new study.
Life has not been found on the surface of the red planet, despite extensive and ongoing searches. But a new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that the subsurface could provide a more suitable environment for possible alien life.
Conditions beneath the surface are less harsh, and there is evidence of water there. What's more, the new study claims that the continual bombardment by galactic cosmic rays, or GCRs, could provide the energy to stimulate the organic activity required for life.
The new study combined numerical models, existing data from space mission, as well as studies of deep-cave ecosystems that are found on Earth. By doing so, it suggests mechanisms through which life would be able to survive underneath the surface.
It also suggests ways that life could be detected by future landers. That part of the planet is yet to be explored, but scientists hope to be able to peer beneath the Martian surface with future missions.
The European Space Agency and Russian Roscosmos had been planning to send a rover to explore the subsurface, as part of the "Summer of Mars" that has also seen landers sent to the planet by the US, the UAE and China. It was delayed because of the need for further testing, and will now be launched in two years, when the next launch window opens.
Those other visitors to Mars, such as Nasa's Perseverance rover, will also explore the planet to understand whether it could have supported life in its ancient history.
"It is exciting to contemplate that life could survive in such a harsh environment, as few as two meters below the surface of Mars," Dimitra Atri, a scientist at the Center for Space Science at NYU Abu Dhabi, said in a statement.
"When the Rosalind Franklin rover on board the ExoMars mission (ESA and Roscosmos), equipped with a subsurface drill, is launched in 2022, it will be well-suited to detect extant microbial life and hopefully provide some important insights."
The study, 'Investigating the biological potential of galactic cosmic ray-induced radiation-driven chemical disequilibrium in the Martian subsurface environment', is published in Scientific Reports.
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