Is there life on Mars? Curiosity didn’t find any, but that’s hardly a conclusive answer. In fact, a handful of NASA scientists claim that the US space agency is looking for life in all the wrong places.
The Mars rover explored the red planet’s dry, irradiated surface: if the planet still hosts life, it’s probably several meters underground. Now a team of scientists — including a few NASA veterans — are hoping to fund a mission to search for life under Mars’ surface. The project is called ExoLance, and its Indiegogo campaign hopes to pitch a series of high-tech darts at the red planet’s crust.
“It’s time to turn our attention to the search for life on Mars,” says NASA scientist Dr. Chris McKay. “Over the past few decades the missions have focused on geology. It’s time to turn our attention to biology.” NASA’s official missions have barely drilled into the planet’s surface, excavating only mere centimeters. The ExoLance team says we need to go deeper, and has designed a penetrator probe that uses the momentum of planetfall to embed itself two meters below the surface. The ExoLance probes would be distributed to multiple sites across Mars, reporting back to a host satellite that would relay their findings to the team back home.
The device has a clever design, but it’s untested — which is why the team has taken to Indiegogo. ExoLance needs $250,000 to test prototypes in the New Mexico desert, a site chosen for its Mars-like characteristics. If the delivery system and the darts themselves prove successful, the team will be able to pitch a real mission to NASA and commercial space programs.