It is clear from conditions on Mars that life would have great difficulty existing anywhere near the surface. Intense ultraviolet radiation bombards the planet, and the superoxide ions generated by that radiation may penetrate several meters into the soil. The average surface temperature and pressure lie below the triple point of water, so no liquid water can exist where the rocks and soils of Mars are exposed to the atmosphere. Thus, simple excavation and the collection of cliffside samples cannot produce samples in which current life is likely to exist. The only way to reach such samples is to dig deep beneath the surface, into the bedrock far from the atmosphere.
The Viking Mission did not find any conclusive evidence in
favor of the hypothesis that life exists on
Mars. However, the only samples that the mission analyzed where taken from the surface.
It is now known that
the highly oxidizing surface of Mars led to the false positive results,
indicating the contradictory simultaneous result of showing signs
of positive metabolism and yet showing no evidence of organic
compounds. In addition, it is known that any
water that currently still exists on Mars is located underground. Since life is possible only where there
is or once was water, in order to successfully search for life, samples must be collected from underneath
the surface. This is the most physically challenging of all of the experiments,
and take a significant amount of time.
will be used to obtain a core sample of the
underground rock layers on Mars. Such a core will enable us to study the present underground rock
compositions, and give us clues to the recent geological past on Mars.
All of the astronauts will be trained in geology and biology in addition to their own specialties. Two of the six astronauts will be highly trained field geologists and biologists. They will go out on field excursions on the manned transportation rover, to explore the surface, and to collect samples. They will deploy the drill and cliffhanger. They will use their human intuition to collect samples, and decide which areas look interesting for further exploration.
Furthermore, we have designed several Little Martian Rovers
(LMRs) that will be able to analyze a
larger territory than the human explorers could on their own. Each rover will carry an
X-Ray spectrometer, and some will carry in addition a Gas-Chromatograph / Mass
Spectrometer and an IR Spectrometer. These
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