NASA’s 2020 Mars Mission ‘Fossil Finder’ –“Doubles Down on Search for Life With Alien Biochemistry” (Today’s “Galaxy” Stream)




“On Earth, our ancient rock record has been through the washing machine and the ringer so many times that the fact that anything still retains any signature of its age is a miracle,” says Brown University’s Jack Mustard, one of the experts consulting with NASA on its fossil-finding mission. “The rocks on Mars would not have been processed to the same extent, would not have been beat up as much, would not have been stretched and squished and heated and buried and exhumed,” he says.

“There's definitely a potential for life-forms that might have existed there that had a different biochemistry," says Mustard."If it were staring us in the face, hopefully we'd be able to recognize there’s some organizational aspect that would point to it not being a geologic process.”




Unlike seismically active Earth, Mars is a planetary-sized fossil. A new NASA mission named Mars 2020, the next-generation rover will carry a sophisticated mobile geology lab designed to search for signs of fossil single-celled algae and bacteria that are the planet’s most likely early inhabitants using sensitive scientific instruments will sniff out biosignatures—minerals and molecules secreted by ancient life at dried-up lake beds and extinct hydrothermal vents.

In contrast, some 50 percent of the Martian surface contains intact rocks dating back to those crucial first billion years of the planet’s formation, adds Mustard. Fossil Finder NASA is considering eight target landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover, shown on the map at the top of the page.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/JPL


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