As I have personally been interested in science especially astronomy and space exploration since I learned how to read at about age 5 and long before I became a true or born again Christian I can say with some basis that I have knowledge of the scientific side of issue of extraterrestrial life (intelligent or otherwise). My interest in astronomy and space exploration especially the human variety was solidified when I eye-witnessed the Apollo 11 lunar landings in July 1969 at a rented cottage in central Ontario when I was 9 years old. The laser reflector left by those astronauts on the moon to determine the Earth-Moon distance precisely probably still works and could probably be used to disprove people who believe the Apollo landings were a hoax if NASA wanted to use this means. I continue to be intensely interested in this subject and am a member of The Planetary Society - the largest grassroots pro-space exploration private organization in the world. I am also quite pleased with the recent and ongoing discoveries of unmanned space probes especially at Mars and to a lesser extent with the current unmanned Cassini space probe at Saturn and its moons especially with the Huygens lander to its large moon Titan that has a substantial atmoshpere with much methane and other hydrocarbons but bemoan the continued lack of appreciable manned space exploration. Although I have not taken formal courses in Biology or Life Sciences I have taken courses in Chemistry including one in Organic Chemistry and have read many articles on Biology in its different areas both from an evolutionary perspective and more recently also from a creationist perspective so I have some understanding of the biology area to comment on the issue of possible extraterrestrial life. I have also been a "born again" Christian for more than 20 years and have read the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation at least 15 times as well as done much Bible study including the terms heaven or heavens and heard many Bible messages and discussed Bible or Christian things many times with other people Christian or otherwise including the idea of extraterrestrial life. I write this article as from someone who has a deep interest, enthusiasm and support for both astronomy, space exploration, and desire to find at least bacteria or equivalent life in the present universe and as a Bible believing Christian that sees these two perspectives as complementary and not incompatible. I also am writing this article feeling that this is a topic of widespread interest to people of many backgrounds although from many different perspectives.
In Genesis 2:1 there is the expression thus the heavens and the earth were finished and the host of them. Although in Genesis 1 only the sun, the moon and the stars are mentioned specifically of things God made in the astronomical heavens, the host of the heavens would include also other objects such as asteroids, planets, comets, planetary rings etc. Although I can't be sure and it is true that no life, even the counterpart of Earthly microbial life, has been found beyond Earth in space so far it is quite possible that such microbial life could be found and exist and have existed in the past in our solar system such as on Mars before on the surface and now below the surface for which the recent recurring slope linnae (RSLs) and confirmation of recent methane emissions could be indications. There could be also current microbes on some other locations in the solar system in sub-surface water oceans in places like Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus. There could have been larger scale life before on Mars when it had a denser atmosphere and warmer temperatures and surface liquid water and rain such as our counterparts of plants and animals and there could be large scale life such as plants or animals in the subsurface oceans of Europa and Enceladus such as fish or other marine life. I do not think there is intelligent extraterrestrial mortal life as we might have heard about it before from Search for Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) programs and the Bible would probably have been more definite to tell us about them to at least pray for their salvation if they had fallen into sin and needed to be saved and there is the problem of how they could be saved such as whether Jesus' death on the cross on Earth would count for their salvation or whether He would have to incarnate as one of them and die on their planet for the sins or such as hypothetical alien race. I believe bacteria and plants don't have either souls or spirits, animals including probably any beyond earth have souls but not spirits and only humans have spirits which allow us to have a relationship with God and be in His image as well as souls. I think the host of the heavens as well as the earth could include extraterrestrial life such as microbes in space or the heavens or large scale life such as plants or animals but not humanoid intelligent life but the host of heaven could be just referring to inanimate objects in space such as the sun, moon, planets, stars, asteroids, comets etc. and that whatever is out there was created by God but didn't evolve. We will just have to see. The scripture reference from Genesis 2 about the host of the heavens and the earth in God's creation that could include some non-spiritual or not intelligent life like microbes, plants or animals but might not is as follows:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. These are the generations of the heavens, and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, Genesis 2:1-4
There were two related major announcements of scientific discoveries by the American space agency NASA in early June 2018. These were both by the Curiosity rover in Gale Crater near the equator of Mars were the rover has been since it landed in 2012. One discovery was that the ongoing measurements of the the composition of the atmosphere of Mars shows a clear seasonal pattern of the abundance of the most basic organic molecule methane or natural gas in the Martian atmosphere. The abundance of methane changed by about a factor of 3 from approximately 0.2 parts per billion (ppb) in the Martian winter to about 0.6 ppb in the Martian summer. This would be too large an effect just to be caused by the different strenght of the sunlight on the Martian surface and any organic matter left there which I heard would only have a difference of about 20% between seasons. The other two alternate sources of the methane and the variation of it would be from under the surface. This could be geologic with a process called serpentization in which liquid water comes across and interacts with some rock particularly the mineral olivine that gives off methane in the process. The other main possibility is that these methane emissions and their variation are due to the effect of different amounts of heat from the sun of possible subsurface microbes that emit methane. In either of these processes the methane would then seep up through the ground into the atmosphere of Mars, at first just above the surface where Curiosity detected the methane. Methane is a very reactive gas and with the radiation that Mars receives from the sun and elsewhere from space any previous methane in its atmosphere would be broken up within a couple hundred years to a level much lower than measured by Curiosity. These seasonal patterns of methane abundance followed a clear sine wave pattern over a couple Martian years or several Earth years. (A Martian year is almost 700 earth days.) I am not sure if the SAM instrument on the Curiosty rover has the capability but one way in which scientists could determine if this methane is likely produced biologically or not is to check if it contains mostly the Carbon isotope Carbon 12. Carbon 12 has six neutrons as well as six protons in its nucleus compared to Carbon 13 that has seven neutrons or a fairly even mix of these two isotopes. (Neither of these isotopes of carbon are radioactive and both are fairly common.) Biological systems find Carbon 12 is less strain and more efficient in the biological reactions because it is a little lighter than Carbon 13 and it is used in higher proportion in living things on Earth in relation to Carbon 13 than the general proportion of the two in the air or surface of Earth so finding more of Carbon 12 in methane on Mars could indicate a more likely biological such as microbial source of the methane measured there.
The other major discovery announced by NASA with its Curiosity Rover in June 2018 was the discovery of some more organic chemicals. These organic chemicals included the small sulfur containing ring molecule thiophene and some benzene-like and propane-like organic chemicals. These could all remnants of much larger organic material called Kerigens that are large organic complex material sometimes seen in astronomical bodies such as comets. The reason the detected organics are thought to be part of these larger kerigen organic material is because the soil samples in the Curiosity Rover SAM instrument, where they were discovered, is heated to about 500 degrees Centigrade or about 900 degrees Fahrenheit which would break up most organic material in the soil samples into smaller organic molecules due to the likely presence of the common perchlorate salts in the soil sample. These perchlorates are very reactive at high temperatures including having a strong ability to destroy or break up complex organic molecules or material. This and many other samples taken for analysis in the SAM instrument. This material in which the SAM instrument on Curiosity found the organics was taken from some rock in the Pahrump Hills area of Gale Crater with its drill about 5 centimetres or 2 inches into the rock. This would be much more protected from space radiation that can break up organic material than material that is right on the top of the surface of Mars. (This drill had stopped working for about a year but fortunately NASA and the scientists and engineers working on the Curiosity Mission were able to restore use of the Curiosity Drill using a near identical test version of Curiosity on Earth around the beginning of June. This new drilling method uses a different drilling method but has now been tested and has worked and hopefully will continue to work well on a routine basis.) That organics were found so close to the surface of Mars gives more confidence to scientists with NASA and elsehere that it won't be too hard to find other samples of organic material this far or farther from the top of the surface of Mars as they would likely to be just as well preserved from radiation or other damage.
What this all means from my perspective as a bible believing but positive to science perspective is that it now seems much more likely, although it hasn't yet quite been proven, that Mars in its ancient past and perhaps from the methane results could still currently have at least some microbial life below its surface. These results certainly give more evidence of organic chemicals on Mars but organic chemicals can be produced by abiotic (not biological such as geological) processes as well as biological such as microbial in this case methane exhaling microbes processes. There are some verses throughout the Bible (about ten or a dozen times in both the Old and New Testament) saying about God's creation the heavens and the earth and the things in them (or the host of them) and this could but doesn't require that there could be living as well as rock or other inanimate things in the astronomical heavens. Even if it is proven on Mars or on some other places in space (the second heavens) such as Jupiter's moon Europa, Saturn's moon Enceladus or on some potentially habitable planet of another star this could just as well be explained by God creating it as it evolved spontaneously. Even if microbes or similiar primitive life were to be found on Mars or elsewhere in space this would also not complicate the biblical Christian view of physical life in the universe as microbial life would not have a spirit a humans (or God, angels or demons do) or have a soul as animals on Earth do (as do humans). I believe that if microbes are discovered on Mars or elsewhere in space that would show to a greater extent the variety and otherwise power and wisdom of God in His creation in the astronomical heavens. On Mars though, it would be good to take some closer inspection of any microbes that are found there to make sure it is not the same as microbes on Earth that could have been brought to Mars or even made their way underground from the Curiosity rover when it was on Earth or other Earth contamination on other rovers or landers that reached the surface of Mars.
At the end of September 2015 the American space agency NASA had a press conference in which they announced a major finding from the HiRise cameras on the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter. This was from looking at the Recurring Slope Linnae (RSLs) that are temporary streaks down canyon or crater walls that have been observed since 2011. These RSLs have been found to have seasonal patterns and make their marks on the slopes facing the sun especially around Martian summer when the temperatures can get at or above or at least the melting point of water. This had already led to suspicion that they could be caused by melting water from Martian water ice that is just below much of Mars' surface. However as has been known since 2008 when they were discovered by NASA's Phoenix lander in the more arctic area of Mars there are chemcials called perchlorates over much of the Martian surface. These are salts including chlorine and oxygen and among other things they substantially reduce the temperatures at which water remains liquid on Mars much as some other salts do on Earth such as when we put salt on ice or snow on roads or sidewalks to melt them in colder areas of Earth in the winter. Anyway this helps explain why some of these streaks were forming on Mars even when the temperatures there would be somewhat below the freezing point of pure water or 0 degrees celcius. The perchlorates can reduce the freezing point of the salty water to -40 celcius or colder. The new study published in the journal Nature Geoscience and announced by NASA Planetary Science people including Jim Green NASA Planetary Science Director, John Grunsfeld NASA associate administrator for science missions and Alfred McEwen a professor at the University of Arizona who is the main researcher for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRise) of the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter with Lujendra Ojha a prospective PhD person in planetary Science at Georgia Institute of Technology as the main people involved in the research and discovery. These RSLs are usually about 5 metres across and around 100 metres long. They usually make dark streaks on the slopes in many areas of Mars. What the team found, especially Mr. Ojha, was that from the spectra of the light from the RSL areas there was a strong signal of perchlorate with water attached to them. These perchlorates were especially Sodium perchlorate, Magesium perchlorate and Magnesium chlorate. It was clear from some of the graphs in the presentation that the dips in the spectra observed from these RSL were consistant with dips in spectra from Earth laboratories with perclorates with water attached. These spectra were not observed anywhere as strongly from other areas of Mars including adjacent areas of slopes where the RSLs were that was outside the actual RSL areas. These RSLs might be the flow not of fully independent liquid water but more of soil wet by liquid water and made more unstable on the steep slope walls. While it has been thought for some time that water was responsible for the production of the RSLs but there were other competing theories such as from sublimation (turning from solid to gas) of carbon dioxide that would bring stones or soil down with it or just rock slides by itself the clear spectras found for water compounds only in the RSLs and the seasonal nature of the RSLs corresponding with the melting point of water heavily favour or virtually clinches that the RSLs are formed by temporary flows of very salty (briny) water. This water would be far saltier than any in the Earth's oceans. As has been observed by others coming to this conclusion is a good example over several years of the scientific process in action. Although this research team seems to prefer the idea that this water is drawn in from the atmosphere through the perclorates on the slopes to bring the water in chemical combination with the perclorate salts and then to together flow down the slopes there is not yet sufficient proof that there is enough water vapor in the Martian atmosphere to realize this. An alternate source for the water is from liquid water aquifers near the top of these slopes and perhaps just below the surface on these slopes where the RSLs form.
Implications of this NASA discovery of liquid water forming RSLs on Mars are probably greater if they are caused by subsurface aquifers of possibly pure liquid water than if they are formed by taking water out of the Martian atmosphere. One reason for this is that there is a much thinner atmosphere and weaker magnetic field on Mars than on Earth which means the surface of Mars and anything on it is subjected to much more radiation from the sun or from elsewhere in the cosmos than on the surface of Earth. This means that it would still be very difficult for even most Earthly bacteria to survive in these RSL areas even though there is some water or moisture. Also the perchlorate salts when combined with this water would make the water far too salty or briny for most earthly bacteria and perhaps hypothetical Martian bacteria to live off. However if a main contributor of these RSLs are subsurface aquifers near the top of the RSL slopes there could be many areas of Mars with much purer water that would be much more supportive of life including being more protected from space radiation. These would be good areas in the future to investigate for signs of Martian microbial or even more complex life like moss or lichens if it can be determined that water aquifers are contributing most of the water for the RSLs. Also, although there isn't too much water at any one of these RSLs' there are many of them on a regular basis in many parts of Mars and not all of Mars has been investigated yet for them and they could make it easier to supply water or oxygen to potential astronauts on Mars and make it more practical for human visits or even human bases on Mars. However there is also one increased concern from some quarters from this discovery. That is people involved in Planetary Protection that is the policy to protect or minimize the transfer of bacterial or other Earth life to Mars or vice versa aboard robot landers or rovers or especially with people would be much more difficult as the presence of even temporary liquid water that is salty would provide any Earth bacteria a better chance to get established on Mars and perhaps wipe out any indigenous Martian life or confuse scientists with what they might think would be Martian life. This would definitely be a bad thing but there also needs to come a point if NASA or perhaps other space agencies are careful for a long enough time and able to investigate these RSL or other promising sites for life on Mars carefully and long enough as well possible nearby water aquifers and still don't find any Martian even bacterial life to conclude that even in more habitable parts of Mars there isn't indigenous Martian life and Mars is still a dead planet and be more lenient towards allowing human explorers on its surface. Whether life either indigenous or from Earth is found on Mars in these RSL or other locations it will still tell us much more about life in other parts of the universe and how common it might be and if different than EArth indigenous Martian life is found what it might be like. Most scientists still think subsurface life including in aquifers is a much better and more likely location for life on Mars but it isn't as accessible. From my biblical Christian viewpoint I think God through the Lord Jesus Christ could make life even indigenous to Mars on Mars either like Earth life or quite different and it could survive if it is just microbes or something primitive like that. I also believe there could be more large scale planets and animals on some more habitable planets in the universe but I don't think there is mortal intelligent life outside of Earth in the universe because they would likely also have spirits and be eternal like human beings and have free will and a desire to worship someone or something and if they fell into sin or rebellion against the Creator God they would have to be saved or restored to God like people on Earth do through God sending His Son Jesus Christ to this Earth in the form of a man to die for and pay for our sins and rise again so people that trust in Jesus can have eternal life with God. There would be complication whether Jesus would have to go to their planets and become one of their race and die for their sins and rise again or whether His perfect life and death and resurrection on Earth could count to pay for their sins on their planet too. Bacteria and plants would not need someone to die for them as they have neither souls or spirits and animals have souls such as shown by their feelings and probably instinct but they do not have spirits and therefore are not eternal and don't have to be saved. So while this discovery of liquid water on Mars could increase the likelihood of life beyond Earth I think this would just show the greater measure of God's power and wisdom and there would not be a complication about God's plan of salvation or redemption as any life on Mars would likely only be microbes or at most primitive plants and these don't have to be redeemed to God from sin and separation from God.
In an article on http://eos.org in August 2016 from the journal Geophysical Letters, the writer Sarah Stanley mentions that the finding by the Mars Curiosity rover of excess Manganese Oxide on Mars likely shows Mars had more free oxygen in its ancient atmosphere than now. Free oxygen means oxygen as atomic oxygen O or molecular oxygen O2 and not oxygen that is bound with atoms of other elements such as with carbon in carbon dioxide CO2 that is a main component of the Martian atmosphere now. The author of the article reports that at least since 2014 there have been both laser and drill measurements of rocks or soil in Mars' Gale Crater by the Curiosity rover that show excess amounts of Manganese Oxide in sandstone samples there. At least the drilled samples of Manganese Oxide were into so-called "fracture fills" in otherwise flat areas. These fracture fill features are said to require high levels of liquid water and oxidizing conditions to form. The writer of the article says the indication of these oxidizing conditions gives clear evidence of free oxygen on Mars in its ancient past. These Manganese Oxide discoveries indicate there was free water on the surface of Mars in its ancient past in what is now this area of Gale Crater. This flowing water on Mars' surface is said to have put the Manganese Oxide in the fractures in this sandstone. The indicated presence of more free oxygen and flowing surface water indicates that Mars was more Earthlike and habitable in ancient times. The article states the high levels of free oxygen on Earth has allowed similiar Manganese Oxide features to form in similiar ways. In the spring of 2014 Curiosity scientists used the Mars Curiosity ChemCam laser to vaporize some Mars surface material and determine its components. They found the manganese levels 3 fold more than expected in a couple percent of places they sampled. Later the Curiosity research team found a further location on Mars in the Kimberley area of Gale Crater of excess area of Manganese. These deposits were also in sandstone in parts that suggest they were deposited by liquid water. Analysis of these Manganese samples suggest they were also Manganese oxides formed by free oxygen (and the flow of liquid water). Although the article doesn't directly say it, to me this gives further evidence that Mars was once habitable at least for microbes and possibly more in the ancient past but it seems that there has not yet been the discovery directly even of these past microbes but their remains would be difficult to preserve. As a bible believing Christian I wouldn't have a problem with the discovery of microbes even current ones on Mars or some other astronomical body or even of plants or animals but it would become quite a bit more difficult if intelligent, mortal life was ever found on another celestial body. This is mostly because I believe that animals or something like them that might exist on other worlds have souls but not spirits while plants and bacteria have neither souls or spirits but humans and likely other intelligent life on other worlds if it exists has both a soul and a spirit. I believe it is the possession of a spiritual component that enables humans have free will and worship our Creator (or in the bad sense anyone or anything else) and this gives us more accountability to God and the part of us that ensures we exist forever. This spiritual aspect of humans is also the part of human beings that I believe necessitated the sending by God of His only begotton Son Jesus Christ from heaven to earth to pay for our sins by His death on the cross and resurrection and restore anyone who believes in our hearts in Him as our personal Lord and Saviour to a relationship with God the Father. If there was other intelligent life on other planets and they disobeyed God they would have to be restored to Him either by Jesus becoming incarnate and dying for their sins and rising from the dead on their planets as one of them or else more likely His incarnation, death on the cross for sins and rising from the dead somehow counting for their sins and brought to their attention which is still unlikely and the Bible doesn't definitely say this happened, it would be more complicated and so far we haven't found definite evidence of other alien races. I think the UFOs and related aliens many observe or even meet that can't be accounted for by natural or man-made objects or psychological effects are mostly by demons or fallen angels in disguise as their messages to people they contact are almost always contrary to the true gospel and way of salvation of God through His Son Jesus Christ in His word the Holy Bible for this present Church Age especially the New Testament.
In April 2015 NASA announced that its Curiosity rover had found perchlorates in the soil in Gale Crater close to the rover. Such perchlorates with thin layers of water frost that fall there most likely result in temporaray liquid water before it evaporates but this water would be very salty or briny that would be hostile to life. However it would seep down into the ground and there it would likely lose some of its salt and be more conducive to microbial life and below the surface there would be more shielding from radiation which would also make a better environment for any possible current Martian microbes. Since perchlorates have been found by Curiosity in Gale crater and before by the Phoenix lander closer to the northern polar areas of Mars, perchlorates are probably widespread on Mars at least on the surface. Perchlorates like other salts cause water to have a much lower melting point that pure water. Perchlorate water could freeze at around -50 degrees celcius which is well within temperatures experienced on much of Mars. Scientists have found what are called recurring slope linnae (RSL) which are regular (annual) lines or deposited material on sunward slopes of crater or canyon walls including the huge VAlles Marineris. If perchlorates are widespread on the surface of Mars, these RSLs could be material that more easily and at lower temperature melts from the light of the sun melting Martian ice near the surface with the assistance of reaction from perchlorates at or near the surface that combines with the ice exposed to the sunlight. This temporary liquid water would still be salty or briny but I think not as concentrated as that very small amounts implied on the surface of GAle crater by Curiosity. The existence and regularity of these RSLs could also mean there is a flow of liquid water just below the surface of Mars in many locations that would be less salty and perhaps more conducive to at least microbial life. It would be interesting to see if there is an elevated level of methane near any of these RSLs which could be evidence of currently existing microbes that breathe out methane just below the surface of Mars that are being nourished by the water that is temporily liquid the deposits of which are shed down the slopes of craters or canyons on Mars but which are likely liquid at some distance below the surface. According to the models of some planetary scientists these water flows that make the RSLs could flow in the Martian night and then evaporate in the Martian daytime which could be also why they haven't really be caught in the act yet. If there are indeed microbes being nourished by these temporary water flows at least below the surface it would be interesting if the carbon isotope of methane in any future elevated periods as measured in the Martian atmosphere near GAle crater by Curiosity would be at a high enough level to determine the isotope ratio of the carbon in the methane and whether the methane is from microbes and biotic source of from an abiotic source such as the process of serpentinazation in which there is subsurface flows of liquid water in contact with some rocks I think especially the mineral olivine. Determining the carbon ratio of the methane in the air that is above background level could also help determine if any microbes causing the methane emissions are contamination from Earth or native to Mars. Of course liquid water on or just under the surface of Mars even salty water might be helpful to any future astronauts from Earth as well.
In mid-September 2015 NASA through the Jet Propulsion Center (JPL) announced that they had confirmed there is a global ocean of liquid water under the surface of Enceladus a moon of Saturn. Enceladus is about 500 kilometers across and on average about 238,000 kilometers from (the center) of Saturn. One of the greatest discoveries of the Cassini mission that is nearing the end of its mission around Saturn and its missions was the finding of jets of water ice from Encedadus in 2006. Among the ice pellets there was also water vapor, some simple organic molecules and salt. The salt was a major factor in initially concluding there was an ocean of water beneath the surface of Enceladus. It is thought that what causes the layer of liquid water below its surface are the continual tides on Enceladus from Saturn and some of the other major moons of Saturn at least some of which are in more distant orbits around Saturn. Also Enceladus' orbit around Saturn is somewhat elliptical or oval and this contributes to tidal stresses on Enceladus (and the maintaining of a liquid layer of water beneath its surface). These jets of ice particles etc. from Enceladus are from the area of the south pole of Enceladus and have been observed on a continuing basis since the Cassini spacecraft first spotted them in 2006. This spacecraft first went into orbit around Saturn and its moons in 2004 and was launched from Earth in 1997. The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency are also involved in the Cassini mission.
What led to the global extent of the ocean under Enceladus was the monitoring of its wobble that is due to the fact it is not perfectly spherical and that its orbit is not completely circular. If Enceladus was frozen right through from its surface there would not be nearly as much wobble as was observed because of the drag from the "dead weight" of its core. This was determined by carefully taking many years of pictures of Enceladus by Cassini and many years of statistcal and computer analysis and modelling. The most likely current confirmation that Enceladus has a global subsurface ocean means it is more likely it could have some life at least microbes with the abundance of liquid water and perhaps the inclusion of some organics in the jets from this ocean. There would have to be energy for any life there not from the sun which would be hidden from view by the overlaying ice but by geological sources such as volcanoes at the bottom of this ocean or that could perhaps go above the water level in isolated locations. The water would likely be very cold just above the freezing point of water so it would be unlikely there is more advanced life than microbes if even they are confirmed. NASA and other scientists are now very interested in further investigating Enceladus for signs of life, at least microbes, from this subsurface ocean with an additional mission to Europa. One of the NASA Discovery missions under consideration would be such a mission but it is under competition with many other missions to other parts of the solar system to be chosen for funding and further development. This selection should be soon. The Cassini mission has a couple more passes through the water jets of Enceladus before its mission ends with a designed flight into Saturn in 2017. If this other mission to Enceladus is chosen from the Discovery missions it will have a much more sensitive and discrinating ability to determine which chemicals are in the jets of water and other substances from the subsurface ocean of Enceladus. Previously a similiar sursurface ocean was found on the larger moon Europa of Jupiter but some interest has decreased of finding indications of life in its jets from its sub-surface ocean over recent years because no more jets have been seen there since 2012.
As a Bible believing Christian I believe while there might not be any material life in this universe beyond Earth, there could be at least microbes or even plants or animals but intelligent mortal life might not be likely. My belief this way is partly because so far we have not found definite evidence of extraterrestrial intelligent life such as from the long running SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) radio and some optical search programs but more so because on a biblical basis any intelligent (ET) life would most likely also have spirits as human beings do and would be alright if they never sinned but if they did they would need a saviour as we do and that God has provided in the Lord Jesus Christ who died for the sins of all people on Earth potentially and actually for everyone that admits he or she is a sinner according to the Bible and trusts in the Lord Jesus as one's personal Lord and Saviour. Even if Jesus' blood could apply to intelligent beings of hypothetical ET races on other planets of other stars or places we might have missed in our solar system which is probably unlikely based on some Bible verses there would be the problem of how they would hear of the good news of Jesus death for their sins on Earth or the other problem if Jesus had to go to their planets and become one of them to die for their sins especially when there is no clear reference to these things in the Bible. If Jesus had done this God would probably want people especially Christians on earth so we could at least pray for their salavtion. Anyway it is much more possible that there could be extraterrestrial more primitive life including in some parts of our solar system especially where there is liquid water such as in the subsurface ocean of Enceladus, Europa or some other places in the solar system or just below the surface of Mars where there have been found temporary flows of salty water from just below the surface called Recurring Slope Linnae (RSLs) in some places on Mars. However, so far no extraterrestrial life even microbes has been found anywhere.
In December 2014 NASA announced that the Curiosity Rover had found clear evidence of organic chemicals on Mars (in Gale Crater) where the rover has been operating. At first NASA said they found no evidence of organic chemicals in this part of Mars below 1 part per billion. But on closer examination by enriching the air that was examined by removing much of the carbon dioxide it was found that there is a background methane level of about 0.7 parts per billion. For two months from the end of 2013 to the beginning of 2014 an increased level of methane was detected by four measurements that averaged about 7 parts per billion or about 10 times the background level. There was also a shorter increase of about 5 parts per billion before that. After the longer elevated abundance period the readings for methane went back to the background level of about 0.7 parts per billion. This methane could be produced by a geological process called serpentinization in which liquid water passes over a certain kind of rock or it could be produced by the action of ultraviolet rays from the sun or elsewhere in space on possible organics on the surface of Mars. This methane could also be produced by methyl chlathrates that can hold methane or other chemicals that might come from further below the surface and slowly release them to the Martian air. The methane that passes through the chlathrates could before that be produced by either Martian microbes or the serpentinization process. What is needed now is to be better prepared or any possible additional increased emission of methane which might allow scientists to determine the isotopes of carbon, whether it is carbon 12 or 13, to better determine if it is from life biotic or non-life abiotic. Life would produce methane with much more carbon 12. At the press conference in December it was also announced by NASA scientists that they had found evidence of other more complex organics including a benzene related compound chloro benzene at a site called Cumberland with much clay or mudstone. It was found before that both the former clays and indication of past neutral pH water would have made this location a particularly good site for at least microbial life. That the compound found in the Curiousity SAM instrument had chlorine is probably an indication as with some other compounds seen there that the heating of the material made it react with perchlorates that are in the soil to combine with organic chemicals there. NASA says it will try to take many more samples now and examine them so we will have to see if there are any more samples that produce an elevated levels of organics that could be examined to determine the carbon isotopes to better say if these organics are produced from life or geology. From a biblical Christian viewpoint I personally don't have any problem even if microbial life is confirmed even if it is native to Mars and different than Earth life but it would be more complicated if scientists found intelligent mortal extraterrestrial life but if such life was on Mars I think we would have found it already. Of course from a Christians viewpoint intelligent mortal extraterrestrial life could sin and might need to be forgiven and restored to God but we think microbes and plants and animals don't have spirits and don't need to be saved although animals have souls.that can act as chemical traps and that could slowly be releasing
In November 2014 results of a study led by Dr. Frank Keppler of the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Results of this study were on the web sites www.space.com and www.sciencedaily.com and were published in the leading science journal Nature but unfortunately have not been widely publicized including no mention I have heard so far in the general media. In this study Dr. Keppler and his team used a sample of the Murchison meteorite that is a carbonaceous chrondrite metoeoite rich in organic chemicals and some biomass from Hawaii. He and his team heated these samples and sometimes subjected them to the chemical perchlorate that also occurs in the soil of Mars. A primary result of these actions was the chemical chloromethane and related chemicals like dichloromethane. The chloromethane resulting from actions on the sample from the Murchison meteorite had carbon ratios that were characteristic of material including the chloromethane detected by NASA space probes on Mars while the results on the Hawaii biomass had carbon isotope ratios not characteristic of Mars but of Earth. The main conclusion of this study is that the chloromethane detected by the Viking and Curiousity landers was not earth contamination but was native to Mars although this chloromethane detected by the space probes could be native Martian soil or soil on Mars that was originally from meteorites that have fallen to Mars and mixed with the soil. what this likely means is that there are organic chemicals or even microbes dead or alive on Mars that produced the chloromethane observed by Viking and Curiousity despite NASA and the general scientific communitygenerally denying that possibility. One leading NASA scientist that promoted the idea that the chloromethane observed by Viking (or Curiousity) could be from Mars organic chemicals or microbial life is Dr. Christopher McKay who was one of the reviewers of Dr. Keppler's study. Perchlorates are chlorine compounds first found in the soil of Mars in 2008 by the Phoenix lander. They do not automatically react with any organic chemcials in the Martian soil but do quite strongly in samples of Martian soil that are heated such as in the ovens aboard Curiousity and likely the ones on Viking. I have been very suprised by the lack of media coverage so far as this could be one of the greatest scientific discoveries ever if it is upheld about the Viking and Curiosity lander samples that they turn out to be from not just organic chemicals but native martian life especially if it is still living and not fossilized ones. I don't know yet if there is any way that the Curiousity rover can determine the source of the chloromethane whether is was methane or some simple organic chemical, a more complex organic chemical or Martian life either dead or living but I hope this can be determined soon if this study by Dr. Keppler is substantiated. If this study is supported there could be more pressure on NASA and other space agencies to send astronauts to Mars in the nearer future than the 2030s since astronauts would have more perception and resourcefulness to examine any samples that could have organic chemicals or life than purely robotic missions. Even if dead or living microbes are found on Mars it would have to be determined if they are identical to any microbes on Earth to see if they originally came from Earth instead of being unique microbes indigenous to Mars. As a Bible believing Christians I personally don't have a problem even if microbes are found on Mars dead or alive, unique to Mars or identical to some on Earth as I would see that as a further example of the Creator God's creativity, wisdom and power and wonder for humans to explore but I acknowledge some non-Christians could see this as evidence for evolution. I personally as a Bible believing Christian would have a much bigger problem if definite evidence was found beyond earth of mortal extraterrestrial intelligent life as they would presumably have spirits that would somehow need to be saved and restored to a relationship with God from being in their sins by the Lord Jesus Christ dying for their sins on Earth or their planet and the Bible doesn't talk clearly about that and so far I haven't seen any evidence of that by SETI searches or other scientific means.
In January 2014 it was announced that the Nasa Mars Opportunity rover had found a site that would have been supportive of possible past life on Mars. This site is located near Endeavour Crater on Mars in the Meridiani Terra region of Mars near the western end of Valles Marineris. This site is regarded as the oldest location on Mars that has suitable conditions for life. There was found there clay minerals that indicate there was previously water there that would not be acidic and would have been acceptable for humans to drink. This means that when considered together with the Curiousity findings of conditions suitable for life some time later in Mars' history there were conditions suitable for life on different parts of Mars' surface for a significant part of its history. Later on in Mars' history there was still liquid water for a while but it was too acidic for humans to drink and wouldn't be suitable to support life in general.
In December 2013 it was announced by NASA that they found evidence in the Yellowknife Bay area of Gale Crater of a past lake that could support at least microbial life. A main reason this location in Gale Crater is thought to have been habitable is that it has mudstone including clay that indicate a neutral balance in the water that is not too acidic like some other parts of Mars. The Curiousity rover also detected carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus that are all elements involved with life on Earth and also rocks with iron and sulfur that could be nutrients for bacteria like life. Indications were also found that then Mars was still cold and dry but not so much so as now with still some liquid water including with drinkable places with neutral pH. In locations like this some Earth bacteria could survice and reproduce quite readily. Search is now going to be made for remains of organic chemicals to attempt to provide further evidence whether life was present in this or other places of Gale Crater on Mars. As a bible believing Christian I personally don't have a problem with the possible discovery of life beyond Earth and believe this could be evidence of God's great wisdom, creativity and power not necessarily the spontaneity of evolution in the universe but it would be more difficult on a biblical basis if intelligent mortal life was found outside Earth in the universe but so far there is little evidence for that.
According to a report in the online source spacedaily.com no methane has been found on Mars down to about a part in a billion atoms or molecules. This means methane in the Martian atmosphere is at least six times rarer than predictions before. The instrument used for these measurements is called the Tunable Laser Spectrometer. Methane can be produced by some forms of life as well as non-living means such as volcanic processes so there was much interest in this measurement. Previous measurements from earth and spacecraft orbiting Mars had measured up to 45 parts per billion in local areas. There is now going to be a search by Curiousity for concentrations of methane below a part per billion. According to the authors of this articles the previous possibly observed measurements should still have been detected anywhere in Mars' atmosphere including Curiousity's location at above a part per billion. The limitation of Curiousity's measurements so far mean that there must be no more than 10 to 20 tons of methane entering Mars' atmosphere each year which is approximately 50 million times less than what enters earth's atmosphere each year. The measurements so far of methane on Mars by Curiousity were done in spring to the latter part of Martian summer when Mars would be warmer and more likely to emit methane by biological or other means. This seems to limit at least the possibility of microbes that take in methane to survive on Mars.
In May 2014 I saw on the Planetary Society web site an article about Recurring Slope Linnae (RSL). There are on slopes on craters and other locations such as the immense Valles Marineris. These occur mostly in the tropical areas of Mars on the slopes mostly facing the sun. They are temporary and are seen by the new layers of deposits on the walls of craters or large valleys like the Valles Marineris. With the temperatures and pressures in the Mars atmosphere likely only support briny or salty water that are liquid at higher temperatures than purer water. I am not sure how salty such water would be but if it isn't too salty it could make these areas more conducive to at least microbial life if there is any there.
In September 2013 Nasa announced that significant amount of water vapour had been given off in heating a sample of Mars soil in Curiousity's Sam oven instrument. This water vapor would have been about 2% by weight of the soil sample and was the most common gas given off on heating the soil sample. This soil was characteristic of surface soil over all the surface of Mars which means it wouldn't be too difficult for possible future astronauts to obtain water on Mars as they would only have to heat the soil a couple hundred degrees. The amount of water from a cubic foot of soil would be about 2 pints. The bad thing is that chlorine probably from perchlorates was also given off in heating the soil and the perchlorates is harmful to human health and would be dangerous to take in with the water without suitable filtering. That water at least in the form of water bound to the soil is so common on Mars indicates that when Mars was warmer there would have been significant scope for liquid water which would have made Mars more habitable in the distant past. There thus could have been at least microbial life although no proof has been found for this yet. Even if evidence for such life is found this can still be consistant with the wisdom, creativity and power of God in His creation. It is only with intelligent mortal life beyond earth that there could be more difficulties from a biblical view such as how God could save them including whether God coming in the form of a man in the person of Jesus Christ and dying for our sins and rising from the dead would count for such intelligent and spiritual beings on another planet or not or whether God the Son would have go to their planet and be incarnated and die for their sins there as well. All this is still hypothetical and quite complicated but wouldn't be an issue for microbes or even plants or even animals that have souls but not spirits.
In March 2013 the NASA Curiousity Rover took a drill sample of some bedrock and put it into its ChemMin and SAM facilities for chemical analysis. Among other things these instruments revealed that the sample included a lot of clay and sulfates that are formed out of liquid water. It was also revealed that the pH or amount or how basic or acidic a material is gave a neutral value so the water that once flowed in this area would be acceptable for humans to drink and would provide a ready environment for microbes to live in. This area was once probably the end of a fresh water river or lake and the different elements or their compounds would have been quite suitable for at least microbial life. Other places on Mars that have been analyzed for water have shown that the past water in those sites was too acidic or too salty but the water in this site in Gale Crater would have been neutral and just right for life. This is a more definite indication that some areas of Mars in the past were suitable for life but further results such as of complex organic compounds would have to be found to indicate that even microbial life was actually ever present.
Around June 2013 the Nasa Curiousity Rover found that pebbles in Gale Crater where the Curiousity Rover is located were of significant size and too large and heavy to be moved by winds. This fact and the other evidence of water in the location indicate that these pebbles and the surrounding features were carved by water. This feature was visible from orbit and it was previously uncertain whether it was formed by water or wind. This evidence on the ground that the feature was carved by water has greatly strengthened the already favoured position that many features on the surface of Mars thought to be carved by water were indeed carved by water rather than wind. This would also strengthen the case that Mars previously had substantial running liquid water and rain from a more signifant atmosphere. This further strengthens the case for past habitability of Mars. So far however no significant evidence for life past or present has been found by the Curiousity rover.
On Mars 5/6 the Mars Curiousity Rover or Mars Science Laboratory landed successfully on Mars. This was even though the landing technique was quite nover and complicated including jettisoning a heat shield, some stages of rockets, a parachute and a mechanism called a sky-crane. Although this was all a great credit to the intelligence and technical abiltiy of those in Nasa or associated organizations we should not forget it is the Creator God of the Bible that gave men and women the intelligence to build and operate such machines in the first place. As I said elsewhere on this web site it was in large part the vastness and orderliness and the beauty of the universe that led me to look for a Creator behind the creation. This later led me to realize that to be ready for God's blessings in the life to come I had to confess my sins and trust in God's Son Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour to have a relationship with this Creator God. Anyway as far as I can tell the rover has landing safely and intact on Mars and so far the cameras or other equipment seem to working properly and hopefully the rest will as well. The reason I have mentioned this project on this web page is because it it the first spacecraft to land on Mars since the Viking spacecraft in 1976 that have the capability to look for life on Mars. There are probably a couple instruments that could do this including those that could determine what types of methane are on Mars that could be a sign of life or the oven that could find organic chemicals or even microbes in the soil especially some distance below the surface. There has already been found regular emissions of methane from some parts of Mars that are hard to explain outside of biological means and this is one thing that will be tested. There will especially be a search for methane with Carbon 12 as this is the only type of Carbon besides some Carbon 14 that is present in methane of other organic chemicals from life on earth. Methane with Carbon 13 apparently is not present when it is produced by life on earth. Of course even if there is life past or present on Mars it wouldn't be difficult to produce life based on Carbon 13 alternatively but this is not what we see on earth. As a Bible believing Christian I don't have a problem if life is found on other planets even if it can clearly be shown not to be contamination from earth as could be the case by now on Mars. I wouldn't have a problem if this life is something like bacteria or even plants or animals. what I would have problems with if intelligent life is found beyond earth with a spirit in each of them like humans other than of course departed humans, angels, demons or God including the Lord Jesus Christ. Such intelligent life in the science sense would be difficult to accomodate from a Christian point because we would have to determine if they sinned and if so whether Jesus' death on earth would apply to them or if Jesus would somehow have to be born and die on their planet for their sins. Especially if there were many alien races this quickly becomes bizarre and cumbersome and for that reason and that such alien races aren't clearly mentioned in the Bible I don't believe there is intelligent extraterrestrial life or that we will find it. The lack of results even from star systems now known to have planets by all the Seti projects adds to these beliefs of mine.
In late May 2011 there was an announcement that some of the rocks of Apollo 17 were re-analyzed and considerably more water than thought was in some of the rocks. In particular some of these rocks included glass beads formed by volcanic activity which are structures that are very stable in conditions of extreme heat and pressure. This means that any water contained in these beads would not easily be lost to the outside environment. In these glass beads it was found that they contained 100 times more water than previously measured. Scientists believe this is an indication that the layer below the moon's crust could contain a considerable amount of water perhaps as much as in the comparable layer below earth's crust. If there were any gases in those regions of the moon such as oxygen, carbon dioxide or methane it is possible that some bacterial life could have been established or even remain since it would be protected from the layer of rock over it from the radiation from the sun or the universe that pervades space and reaches the surface of the moon. I do not know if the lunar material was retrieved from this area but there is a small patch of lunar soil that is a brown colour instead of the ordinary grey in the area of the Apollo 17 landing where these astronauts had access to and could have obtained lunar rocks or material from. I heard on space.com that this brown colour of material could indicate some presence of water although I would have to confirm this. There was also the discovery recently or significant amounts of water ice on the lunar poles by the American Lunar Prospector probe that crashed into the south pole region of the Moon and of water in a form bound to rocks on the top layer of the surface by a recent Indian orbiter around the Moon. All of these things could better support some type of life or indicate more widespread presence of water on the Moon although the polar areas of the Moon are some of the coldest areas of the solar system and would be too cold to support probably even bacteria life. This more widespread presence of water is some form in some areas of the Moon will also be extremely valuable for astronauts who might visit or try to establish a base on the Moon in the future. It would also be interesting to determine if there is any release of gases including water vapor from the interior of the Moon on any areas of the surface of the Moon now there is an indication that water in some form could be more common below the surface of the Moon.
In November 2011 Nasa launched the Curiousity rover to Mars and it is expected to land on Mars in August 2012 if all goes well. The Curiousity rover is also called the Mars Science Laboratory. Although there are many experiments on this spacecraft the one that could be viewed as most interesting are the ones that could detect organic chemicals. These instruments could also provide evidence for past or present microbes on Mars if they exist. Unfortunately the main instruments would involve heating the samples which could destroy the organic chemicals like could have happened in the Viking landers in the 1970s. This could have been due to perchlorates in the Martian soil which destroy organic chemicals on heating. Perchlorates were discovered in the Martian soil near the Martian north pole by the Phoenix lander around 2008 and are thought to be common in other regions of Mars. However we know now to take this into account and we could still get an indication if organics are present in the soil even involving experiments with heating now. From my perspective as a biblical Christian I wouldn't have problems if even current microbes are found in Mars and would just see that as further evidence of the wonder, power and creativity of God in His Creation. I would however have problems if extraterrestrial intelligent beings are found. I think UFOs and aliens that have been observed that can't be explanined by natural or human artifical or physchological means are probably real but not extraterrestrial but demonic as the New Testament clearly allows for this type of thing.
On August 4th, 2011 Nasa announced that the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter (MRO) had detected possible evidence of ongoing flow of liquid water on Mars. Although liquid water wasn't actually detected, seasonal variations of channels on the sides of a crater in the last couple years was detected. The crater was Newton Crater which is a fairly large crater not too far south of the Martian equator. The evidence was dark channels on the sides of this crater that change with the Martian seasons and seemed to change or grow the most in the Martian spring that would be when liquid water would be expected to occur from the melting of water ice that could be in the sides or near the top of the crater under a layer of dust or soil. Although gullies had previously been detected on Mars, these were thought to be only relatively recent by scientists such as 1,000,000 years ago compared to the idea that the evolutionary idea that the solar system is 4.5 billion year old and the last large scale water on the surface of Mars might be 3 to 3.5 billion years ago. On a literal biblical view this relatively recent flow of water on Mars could be a couple hundred years ago and the large scale water flow on Mars could be about 5000 to 5500 years ago at the time of the great flood on earth or perhaps about 7000 year ago at the time of the curse on creation following ADam and Eve's sin of taking of the forbidden fruit on earth. If this possible evidence of ongoing flow of liquid water discovered in August 2011 is proven to be actually the ongoing flow of liquid water on Mars with the flow on Mars and if perhaps this is also discoved on other locations of Mars under closer examination in its tropical areas one way to examine it further would be to look for emission of methane or some other gases that bacteria that might be still living there would give off. On earth almost all life depend on liquid water to survive. Methane has been observed to occur more than scientists can explain in the atmosphere of Mars and it has been observed to come from some specific locations of Mars such as Nili Fossae. What should be done now is to examine this region of Newton crater or any other place where similiar season channels or indication of flowing water are found for emission of methane. I haven't heard yet if this has been done but it would be a good idea if Nasa could train any orbiter that can detect emission from space on this region to see if it can detect methane emission from the vicinity of Newton crater. If there is further confirmation of possible life in this region as a biblical Christian it wouldn't be a problem for me as I would think that if further evidence of the wisdom and wonder of God's creation and wouldn't be a problem as they would not have spirits that needed to be saved as humans or any hypothetical intelligent extraterrestrial beings.
From a literal biblical perspective, the creation was not the only major natural event on earth and probably at least part of the universe. A second major event besides the original curse on creation following Adam and Eve's sin in partaking of the forbidden fruit was God's cursing the earth with the worldwide flood in the days of Noah. This was a curse not only because it killed most people and animals but because in the post- flood world the conditions on earth were not nearly as good for the growth of plants and animals. That is why the dinosaurs and other giant creatures could probably not survive in a post flood world. However it is quite possible that God then put a curse on some of the astronomical objects then as well. One likely candidate would have been the loss of much of the atmosphere of Mars which resulted in the cessation of liquid water rain and the drying up of oceans, seas and rivers of liquid water. There is overwhelming evidence that Mars once had a substantial system of liquid water including the carving of the immense Vallis Marineris which is far larger than EArth's Grand Canyon and this is accepted by most scientists. The end of Mars' once substantial atmosphere would have not only robbed Mars of its liquid water system but also would have stopped much of the protection against harmful radiation from space that now quite freely reaches the surface of Mars. This event of the loss of much of Mars' atmosphere and the cooling of the climate would have occurred probably at the time of the flood of Noah on earth and would have led to the destruction of any large scale life such as plants and animals that could have existed on Mars previously and made analogues of bacteria to find protective niches such as underground. Although I don't think Mars before had intelligent life I do think it could have previously supported large scale life perhaps even intelligent life quite comfortably.
The planet Mars has long been conceived or looked upon as one of the best places in our solar system outside of Earth for extraterrestrial life. This would probably include some but not all Christians with this viewpoint. Of course at first until probably the first close up pictures by the fly by unmanned Mariner spacecraft past Mars in the 1960s Mars was even thought to possibly shelter extraterrestrial intelligent life human-like or otherwise. This was popularized by the astronomer Percival Lowell who conducted an extensive study of features on Mars he imagined to be artificially produced canals by a desperate civilization on the dry climate of Mars. This idea began with another Italian astronomer named Giovanni Schiaparelli who first noticed these features and called them "canali" which is the Italian word for channels but was often interpreted in English as canals. Another prominent person who popularized intelligent life on Mars was H. G. Wells with his science fiction book The War of the Worlds that was famously broadcast on radio in the United States saying that Martians had landed in United States and were trying to take some power and caused quite a panic by some people who thought this was real. I think this was in 1938. Other people have also popularized the idea of intelligent life on Mars but the pictures of the Mars flyby that showed many craters on Mars and a surface apparently void of noticeable vegetation, liquid water or signs of civilization dealt a severe blow to the hopes of finding extraterrestrial life on Mars. This disappointment was further extended when the first landers on Mars the twin NASA Viking probes saw no trees or vegetation (or humanoid or animal life) on Mars in their immediate vicinity. According to a recent brief article in the magazine Science News (November 18, 2006), there is a report that an experiment was done on earth on three arid or very dry locations in Chile, Egypt and Antarctica and two areas with iron-rich soil in Spain and Hawaii to revisit the Viking lander results bearing on the question of possible Martian microscopic life. In these recent experiments on earth the same experimental equipment or techniques that were used on Viking landers were used called thermal volatization - gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (TV-GC-MS) as well as another technique for detecting microscopic life. In these tests in the soil from the very dry locations in Chile, Antarctica and Egypt this other technique indicated there were some biological entitites in the soil but the TV-GC-MS technique used on Mars showed results giving no indication of biological entities. Also in the soils from Spain and Hawaii with abundant iron the results show that in the TV-GC-MS procedure some of the carbon of the biological materials was turned into carbon dioxide in the examinations. One of the researchers said these findings of carbon being turned into carbon-dioxide in iron rich soils (as the soil on Mars) and the lack of detection of biological entities in the arid soil by the TV-GC-MS could explain why the Viking landers discovered carbon dioxide but not organic material. This means there is a more realistic possibility the Viking landers encountered microscopic life on Mars in the 1970s. Unfortunately the present Spirit and Opportunity rovers only have capability to detect water and perhaps other hydrogen bearing compounds and not carbon based or organic compounds but there are plans to send a further lander or rover to Mars with organic compounds detection ability soon.
Although it is somewhat controversial there is a meteorite from Mars named Allan Hills 84001 named I believe from the area of Antarctica where it was found that contains some possible indications of Martian microbial life. This past life is possibly indicated by such things as structures that look like fossilized miniature bacteria. Although their small size even for bacteria was previously used to dismiss it as not possibly biological I believe some examples of such small bacteria or microbial life have more recently been found on Earth. One of the other main indications of possible former life on Mars in this meteorite is deposits of the iron containing mineral magnetite. However this can be produced by both organic and inorganic processes. Anyway in late 2007 this Mars meteorite was used for a further experiment here on Earth. In this experiment this meteorite was studied and compared with some of the ground of the arctic Norwegian island of Svalsberg north of Norway itself by Norwegian scientists. These scientists examined rocks produced by volcanic processes in the frigid climate a long time ago. These scientists found that organic material was present in carbonate spheres in both the Earth rocks and the Martian meteorite. This organic material is strongly related to the mineral magnetite which is composed mostly of iron oxide. This participation of magnetite is the essential part of realizing the formation process of these organic chemicals. When these rocks cooled the magnetite instigated the formation of the organic chemicals from liquids containing abundant water and carbon dioxide which are both known to occur also on Mars and at least previously would likely have occured in relation to liquid water or perhaps other liquids. Although the organic chemicals in the Mars meteorite are not thought to have been produced by living forms at this time the probable production of organic chemicals in a spontaneous way with the assistance of the mineral magnetite on an otherwise cold and seemingly inhospitable environment such as Mars could make the existence of microbial life on Mars in the past or even present more likely as these organic chemcials could be used as nutrients for any possible Martian microbial life forms. This could also make the presence of organic matter more likely on other worlds in our solar system or extrasolar planets more likely if they have water, carbon dioxide and a catalyst such as magnetite and some liquid to transport the water and carbon dioxide. There are more unmanned landing probes scheduled to reach Mars in 2009 or in the next decade by United States, Europe and perhaps others capable of detecting organic chemicals and perhaps life such as bacteria so the discovery of organic chemicals in this meteorite from Mars in a way similiar to rocks in harsh and Mars-like areas or Earth increases the promise that at least organic chemicals will be found soon on Mars. This could be an indication of bacteria life on Mars but any organic chemicals on Mars could be only limited to inorganic means of production and use if there is no more complex involvement in these processes than the magnetite catalyzed production of organic chemicals.
In a radio broadcast I heard last night that including an interview with a scientific specialist who has experience with the Allan Hills meteorite and was familiar with some of the other meteorites from Mars, it was affirmed that there is renewed confidence that the magnetite and wormlike structures on the Allan Hills meteorite and some positive indications on some other Mars meteorites indicate past biological activity on Mars of a microbial nature. It was stated that this magnetite could be produced inside the bacteria or similiar creatures and could be used to orient the microbes with a magnetic field. However this would still be somewhat difficult for microbes on Mars as there is not a global magnetic field on Mars as on Earth although there are local magnetic fields in some places on Mars but these would not be as useful for orienting these microbes on Mars with the different climatic zones as the magnetic field on Earth would be for microbes here.
Although large scale life at least at present of animals, planets or of course humanoid or other intelligent life has pretty well been ruled out on Mars, there is accumulating evidence that Mars can now still support limited bacteria life and may do so and that it could once support much more extensive life and possibly did. The first discovery in favour of the idea that Mars could once support much more extensive life was the early discovery of the Valles Marineris or Mariner Valley which is similiar to but far larger than Earth's Grand Canyon which of course is known to be carved by water. This and many other considerations argue strongly in favour of this Valles Marineris and similiar features that look like they were carved by water erosion actually having been carved by water. Much more recently there has been discovered within a metre of the surface over I think about 2/3 of the surface of Mars especially on either side of its equator a vast sheet of water ice which if melted could form quite a sizable ocean of liquid water and accompanying water system. This could be left over from when Mars was previously a wet planet in its early history including probably an ocean in much of its lower northern hemisphere that also has what looks like several former water channels running into it. In March 2007 it was announced that the European Mars Express has discovered that the south Martian polar cap has about the same surface area as the U.S. state of Texas and that is 1 or 2 miles deep is composed mostly of water ice rather than having a significant part that was dust or other similiar material. It is calculated that is this water ice in the south Martian polar cap were all to melt the resultant liquid water would cover all of Mars to a depth of about 11 metres or 36 feet. Liquid water of course is one of the main components to support life as we know it although theoretically there are some other chemicals that could take its place. Another thing that in some ways is even more interesting is the also recent discovery of what looks like small water gullies on the sides of some crater walls and other places. These are interesting because these gullies usually go over other features such as smaller craters or ridges meaning the water gullies must be more recent. They also in many cases have no apparently more recent features interfering with or imposed on them meaning they are either quite recent or perhaps still active. This would be very interesting for unmanned or manned future Martian explorers to investigate. Ongoing research in support of water is from the NASA Spirit and Opportunity rovers that are continuing to discover evidence of past liquid water on the surface of Mars. This includes the discovery of a rock ledge which seems to give evidence of past water erosion or formation activity as if it was on the shoreline of a former shallow sea. Sulphate components that are usually just formed in liquid water and that were probably dissolved in a liquid water sea at the Opportunity rover site is strong evidence of previous liquid water on Mars especially at that location. There were also many nodules likely formed in water called blueberries because of their blue tinge on some of the rocks there that could also be evidence of past liquid water. The Opportunity rover also found evidence of the mineral Jarosite (K2Fe6(SO4)4(OH)12 that can only form in liquid water and Haematite (Fe2O3) that is usually found mostly in liquid water which is further substantial evidence of former liquid water on Mars. The Spirit rover has also found substantial evidence of Haematite and recently evidence of the mineral Goethite (FeO(OH)) that can only be formed in the presence of liquid water.
On space.com and the Telegraph newspaper from the United Kingdom and the BBC among other places there was an announcement of the latest findings of possible past significant water on Mars. This study concluded that in the ancient past 36% or just over a third of the surface of Mars was covered with a significant layer of water including a vast northern ocean over much of Mars' northern hemishpere which still has much of the lower elevation regions on the planet. This conclusion was reached by using the data from Mars orbiters to determine that about 52 past river deltas lay at the same level and probably mostly flowed into the ancient northern ocean of Mars. In these reports it is mentioned that this water persisted until about 3.5 billion years while they would say that the age of Mars might be about 4.5 billion years. However young earth creationists including myself would say these ages are much more recent with perhaps just over 5 thousand years for the end of this water on Mars perhaps coinciding with God's curse on earth in His judgement of the flood of Noah and an age of 6 to 7 thousand years for the creation of Mars and the universe including earth. In this ancient time Mars would also have had a much more substantial atmosphere including significant rain. It has been determined in this article that there could also have been past life on Mars at this time and that these delta regions should be a priority for future landers or rovers from NASA or other space agencies to look for life especially when the spacecraft have the capability to look for biological material like an updated version of the past American Viking landers. There are apparently still some people that think all these landforms that look like they were carved by liquid water were actually formed by volcanic activity on Mars but these latest discoveries that give further support for an ancient ocean of liquid water on ancient Mars should help dispel the volcanic theory further. As a biblical Christian as I said elsewhere in this article I think there could be some extraterrestrial life like a counterpart to our bacteria or even our plants and animals but I don't believe there is extraterrestrial intelligent life (other than God, departed believers and angels of course) as I think God would mention this phenomena more in his word if it was true and perhaps more evidence would have been gathered by the Seti projects like their radio telescopes.
In early March 2009 it was announced that after some study it has been concluded that the gullies on Mars are about one million years old (on an evolutionary time scale although I am sure from a creationist perspective there is support for an age at most thousands of years old). This conclusion is based on the lack of craters on top of these gullies that indicates they are fairly recent on an evolutionary and probably creationist time scale. It has been concluded that these gullies were not formed by rock slides or other means but were formed by liquid water but that unfortunately it has been concluded these have not happened in the immediate past (the last couple years of decades etc.).
Although at this time it still has to be confirmed by putting it in one of the ovens in the Phoenix Lander and seeing at what temperature in vaporizes, it has already been largely confirmed that there is water ice just under the surface in at least some of the polar areas of Mars. The landing site of the Phoenix lander was chosen because, as seen from orbit, there were definite indications that there should be ice just under the surface in this location (probably within a couple inches or several centimeters of the surface. It as of November 2008 was later confirmed by putting this sample in the oven that the sample included water ice. As it has looked since the Phoenix lander landed there has been some white areas revealed that could probably be ice that were probably uncovered by the thruster rockets that slowed the descent of the lander before it reached the surface. These rockets probably blew away the top couple inches or several centimeters of soil that is probably dust blown there by Martian winds from other parts of the planet. What is more important that the scoop on the arm of the Phoenix lander dug a small trench that also uncovered some white material. The scientists on the Mars Phoenix lander team waited about 4 days to see what would happen to this white material and as can be seen from comparative pictures before and after these four days the original white material disappeared after the 4 days had elapsed. It was thought at first the white material could be a type of Martian salt or even solid carbon dioxide or dry ice. However the salt wouldn't disappear (sublimate) into gas as this material had done and the temperatures at this site would be too warm for carbon dioxide to be frozen (at least at this season in the Martian year.) The only other material that would be common on that part of Mars that would form at those temperatures and pressures and that would disappear (sublimate) under the given material is water ice so the fact it did disappear in 4 days as well as the fact that this was an area that should have water ice as determined from orbit results in the conclusion that this white material is indeed water ice. The orbiters can detect the presence of ice from orbit but can't determine the form in which it occurs such as clumps or layers etc. Next the scientists hope to put some of the other ice that has been shown to be common around the lander into one or more of the onboard ovens and heat up the material to see if it does indeed vaporize at the temperature for water but also to see what other material might be in the ice including organic chemicals which this lander is also built to detect. If organic chemicals are found this could give more support for the hope that in the past and perhaps even at the present there is at least microbial life on Mars as there are some kinds of bacteria on earth that can survive in water ice I think especially if there are organic chemical in that ice. Even if it is just fossil bacteria that is found on Mars, as long as it can be demonstrated it hasn't been from contamination from Earth, such as from previous landers, it would still be a groundbreaking discovery and would mean that life occurs on more than one place in the universe and probably many places including perhaps more advanced life on more earthlike extrasolar planets or planets of other stars. As a Bible believing Christian I wouldn't find this a problem as I believe God could have created the universe this way if he chose and I don't think there is any contradiction with the Bible although I would have a problem if any human like life is found on any other planet. I think this is next to impossible on Mars as we have studies it in detail for a couple decades and found do clear evidence of people or their building or presence although I am aware there are people that point to the face on Mars and supposed pyramids in some regions of Mars. If no evidence of even bacteria life in this location on Mars is found it could mean that this was just a bad sample or that there isn't any even bacteria life on Mars. I don't believe there is any humanoid or intelligent life on Mars as a Christian since I think God would have mentioned this at least in the Bible so we could pray for them for their salvation or God's help for them or perhaps eventually if we achieved a better technological level to visit them or even with current technology to communicate with them via light, radio waves or other electromagnetic radiation. I also think having another humanoid race would provide a problem or whether the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God would have to go to those planets to die for any sins they committed or whether Jesus's death on Earth would count for their sins but that they couldn't receive him if they haven't heard about him.
Other discoveries of the Phoenix Lander which has now been declared dead due to end of communications due to the approaching northern winter and declining sunlight include the following. Carbonates and clay were discovered which both need liquid water to form and therefore are clear indicators of the past presence of liquid water. Also discovered by the Phoenix lander was the mineral perchlorate which could have provided energy to any bacteria or other material that might have existed in past water at this location in ancient Mars. The soil was also found to be mildly alkaline or basic which would support some life including plants that grow on earth. This is in contrast to somewhat acidic soil at the locations of the two Nasa rovers Spirit and Opportunity near the Martian equator. Unfortunately with the end of the Phoenix lander there is no more possibility of finding organic material or signs of at least past bacteria until an appropriate future mission lands and starts operation.
One of the main molecules found in the soil by the Phoenix Lander in 2008 in the area around the lander was perchlorate. There was some talk about what that would mean for the prospects of finding life at the time but lately a more interesting and intriguing possibility has been raised. This is that there could be perchlorates widely distributed on the surface of Mars including at the sites of the Viking landers. The chemistry of these perchlorates is such that at usual temperatures on Mars and possibly even up to room temperature on earth perchlorates don't destroy organic compounds including those of any microbes in a location. However when soil is heated to oven temperatures of a couple hundred degrees as was done on the Viking landers the perchlorates would destroy any organic compounds including microbes. The resultant compounds would be chloromethane and chloroethane as was seen by the Viking landers. This was initially explained as contamination by chlorine based cleaning fluids from earth. However since this theory was proposed some scientists have done an experiment with soil from the Atacama desert in Chile. This soil was put in an apparatus very similiar to the oven on the Viking landers after perchlorate was added or mixed in with the soil. Then this perchlorate soil mixture was heated to similiar temperatures as on the Viking landers on Mars. Guess what happened? No organic compounds were detected or microbes but plenty of chloromethane and chloroethane just as in the Viking results on Mars. This is even though the soil from the Atacama desert on Earth would surely contain some organic compounds and microbes given their pervasive nature on earth even in dry deserts. This has led substantial number of scientists and others interested in astronomy and space exploration to believe that the Viking landers had detected organic compounds or even life in the late 1970s on Mars after all but that the results were misinterpreted. A note of caution is that organic chemicals can be produced from nonbiological as well as biological (life) basis so even if these results on Mars as organic are confirmed it still doesn't prove there is even microbial life but it would make it much more likely than if organic chemicals weren't detected. Organic chemcials have been detected on some comets or other places in our solar system that are likely too cold or have too much radiation or other problems for life. Now fortunately there is a chance to follow up on this theory. The Mars Science Laboratory sometimes called Curiousity is scheduled to be launched near the end of 2011 and land around August 2012 on Mars. It has the capability to also detect organic compounds and can heat soil as on Viking which would probably produce similiar results as Viking if there were perchlorates around the Mars Science Laboratory landing site but it also has the capability to examine soil without heating it. If the above theory is correct this should result in the detection of organic chemicals if they are widespread on Mars although it would be difficult to prove from this probe whether they are biological or not. One reason the organic chemicals are likely to be widely distributed on Mars are its frequent dust storms including global ones every couple years. From a Christian viewpoint I think the finding of organic chemicals or even microbes on Mars can be explained in a way consistant with the Bible as indicating the wonder of God's creation and design and wisdom. I think this is just as good an explanation as the non-Christian belief in evolution. I don't see any theological problems for the occurence of organic or even biological material beyond earth unless it is humanoid or other intelligent life other than God, angels and demons mentioned in the Bible. If microbes were detected on Mars however and they were based on DNA like practically all earth life I would be very suspicious these microbes were contamination from earth but if they were based on some other molecule then I would say definitely they are native Martian life.
IN the end of March 2009 after more careful examination of some of the pictures from the Phoenix Mars Lander after it ceased operations an astounding discovery was made. There were what appreared to be small but clearly visible in photographs drops of some liquids. It was clear that this material was a liquid as it ran down the leg of the lander and coalesced into bigger drops as would be expected for a liquid. Although most scientists viewed the existence of liquid water on Mars as an impossibility because of its cold temperature and low atmospheric pressure it does seem that liquid water is the best explanation for the observations on the Phoenix Mars lander. It is definitely known that there is water in that location as the lander uncovered a clear layer of water ice and put some of it in its sampling oven which confirmed the molecule was water ice. However one other compound found in abundance at this location was perchlorates and perhaps some other salts. These salts in water cause the water to freeze at about -60 degrees Celcius just like normal salt that we put on sidewalks on snow or ice in the winter in Canada causes the snow or ice to melt because it lowers the freezing point of the resultant water. This temperature of about -60 degrees Celcius is below the normal daytime temperature at this polar region of Mars at least in the fall and certainly in the Martian summer so temperaturewise this material on the leg of the Phoenix Mars lander but there is still some controversy about these claims especially because the low surface pressure of the atmosphere would make the existence of liquid water on Mars quite unlikely but scientists are trying to understand this physics and the phenomena on the Phoenix lander to better determine if liquid water could form on Mars and whether that is what was observed on the leg of the Phoenix Mars lander. There will probably be more discussion and a better understanding on this issue in the near future. If this is confirmed this would make the search for extraterrestrial life more promising as there are bacteria on earth that could exist in these conditions although it might be too salty for some other microbes.
In some isolated locations on Mars, especially the Nili Fossae region near the Isidis depression, there has been a discovery of significant amounts of carbonate on Mars from the Nasa Mars Reconaissance Orbiter. The significance of this find is that with the abundant carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere and due to other factors there should be abundant instances of carbonate on Mars but up to now none was discovered. This is thought to be in articles from space.com and the bbc that the predominant acidic watery environment that occured at one phase of Mars' history over much of the planet would dissolve the carbonate and so make it more difficult to find. The occurence of the carbonate in this location in Nili Fossae and some other locations on Mars indicates some areas of Mars escaped this acidic watery covering which would be harmful to life even microbes or the equivalent. If Mars ever had even bacteria or the equivalent it would only continue or even its fossil form would remain only if it hadn't come into contact with this acidic water that covered much of Mars as bacteria on earth and probably any Martian equivalent would be damaged or destroyed by this acidic water. Therefore this region in the Nili Fossae valley would be a good location to look for past or present at least bacteria life on Mars as has been pointed out on other sources. This should help Nasa or the space agencies of other countries have a specific target area to have a better chance of detecting at least bacteria life on Mars in the near future.
Although it has long been the subject of science fiction, especially related to Mars, and possible life or civilizations there the discovery announced on March 17, 2007 of 7 caves that were discovered on Mars by the American Mars Odyssey spacecraft is the first actual scientific evidence for caves on Mars. These caves were all found on the Arsia Mons volcano which is part of the Tharsis Montes complex that is located between Olympus Mons and Valles Marineris. There is a drop of between 80 metres and 130 metres from the mouths of these caves to their floors. The entrances to the caves are between 100 metres and 252 metres across. The floors of the caves continue probably to 73 metres to 96 metres below the surface of this part of Mars although one of these caves has a floor that extends 130 metres below the surface of this part of Mars. The significance of the discovery of these caves on Mars and the hope of finding further ones now is that the surface of Mars is still quite hostile to life, either human, animal, plant or bacteria or the equivalents because of the radiation from the sun and our galaxy and beyond that is almost unhampered by any feature on Mars. On Earth we are protected especially by the thick atmosphere of Earth and our substantial global magnetic field. Mars has no global magnetic field and an atmosphere with only about 1/1000 the surface pressure of Earth's. These caves could provide a good initial refuge for possible human astronauts on Mars. These caves could have practical value as a possible refuge for bacterial life especially if there is any source of liquid water inside these caves. Therefore these caves would also be an excellent choice to start looking for possible Martian microbial life although of course lighting would have to be provided.
Recently evidence of possible extraterrestrial microscopic life has been found by orbiting unmanned space probes around Mars through the discovery of clear evidence of appreciable Methane or natural gas CH4 and Ammonia NH3. Each of these molecules are primarily composed of Hydrogen a very reactive chemical element. This means in a relatively short time, hundreds of years, they should all react with the Oxygen in the Carbon Dioxide CO2 that is very plentiful in the Martian atmosphere if they are not being replenished. This means there must be some ongoing source for their continued existence in Mars' atmosphere. According to scientists the two most likely sources are geothermal activity such as volcanoes or bacteria life including that which could be beneath the surface. So far despite several orbiters viewing previously and currently the entire surface of Mars there has been no evidence found of active or recent volcanoes or other geothermal activity. This leaves bacteria as the most likely source of these gases in the Martian atmosphere, if they are confirmed, which would be a strong factor in favour of present bacteria life on Mars. Also although the biological chemical analyzing experiments aboard the Viking landers couldn't find any conclusive evidence of bacteria or similiar life on Mars they also had some readings or results that couldn't be dismissed as being caused by extraterrestrial microscopic life either so further examination is needed in this area as well. The failed Mars lander Beagle 2 was equiped to do such testing but unfortunately mission control people lost contact with it before it reached the surface. The present NASA Spirit and Opportunity rovers are only equipped to detect water I think hydrogen but not also carbon related chemicals. On November 5, 2005 I read an article from www.usc.edu, the University of Southern California website, a scientist named Joseph Miller who works in their Keck School has found evidence from some experiments in arid or very dry areas of earth that in one of them in the American state of Utah a source of methane was traced to methanogens or methane breathing out bacteria in the desert soil there. This professor Miller also noted methane has been detected on Mars and that it would be worthwhile to send another rover to look for Methanogens on Mars. The current rovers are not equipped to detect carbon compounds like methane although the earlier Viking ones were and some of the ambiguous signals for life in the Viking experiments could have been produced by methanogens. Finally in 1996 a meteorite was found on the ice in Antarctica that was determined, based on its isotopes or versions of its atoms with numbers of neutrons, to have come from Mars. What is interesting about this meteorite is that it has miniature features that look like they are small bacteria. Although some of the former points used as possible evidence in support of this rock showing Martian bacteria extraterrestrial life have been discounted, one of the points previously against this rock showing authentic extraterrestrial life, that this proposed bacteria was too small to be once alive, has been discounted. This is because simiarly small bacteria called nanobacteria have been found alive on Earth since the discovery of this Martian meteorite in 1996. One could still argue in favour of this rock having authentic Martian extraterrestrial life although it is still debatable.
At most of the sites where methane emissions have been detected, it has now been determined that there is a two year cycle in these emissions or about one Mars year. These emissions have been found to be strongest in the Martian summer and weakest in its winter with growing emissions in the Martian spring and declining emissions in its autumn. Although there is some possibility this could still be consistant with an inorganic explanation, this certainly in my opinion and in the opinion of some Mars researchers or commentators adds to the possibility that these Martian methane emissions are caused by some sort of methane expiring microbe probably under the surface. It would a profitable project in determining what is causing these emissions if Nasa or some other space agency would send a lander or even rover with the ability to detect organic or even living material to one of these sites and stay there for at least one martian year and attempt to observe these emissions on site and perhaps dig into the soil to try to find the sources of these methane emissions. Although it is still too early to definitely say these emissions are caused by living organisms these latest observations continue to point in that direction. This would be a very significant discovery if it was confirmed especially if these microbes were found and determined to be based on something other than DNA and so be less likely to be contamination from earth and more likely to be indigenous Martian life. Again as a bible believing Christian I would have no problem with the discovery of organisms on Mars as I believe that this would be just part of the wisdom, wonder and power of God in creation but it is more intelligent extraterrestrial life other than God himself, angels or demons or deceased humans that I would have more trouble with theologically.
On January 15, 2009 it was announced that from a variety of sources including Europe's Mars Express orbiter around Mars and some large ground telescopes on Earth that emissions of considerable quantities of methane gas have been observed on Mars. These sources of methane CH4 also known as natural gas have been mostly from three areas on Mars: Nili Fossae, Arabia Terra and Syrtis Major. Nili Fossae was also recently in the news as is also mentioned above on this web page as the location where the mineral carbonate was found which is only produced in the presence of liquid water which is also an indication of at least past conditions supportive of life. The amount of the production of methane at these sites on Mars is quite considerable and is comparable to that produced in a place releasing methane near Santa Barbara, California called the Coal Pit Point. Methane on Mars is not stable in its atmosphere and would be oxidized quite quickly to form carbon dioxide and probably water and there is not much methane in Mars's atmosphere at all on a long term basis for this reason. Methane on Mars or in its atmosphere is only likely to come from one of two sources. This is either inorganically from volcanoes or organically from microbes that emit methane. There are microbes on earth like this that get their energy from chemical reactions with hydrogen rather than sunlight and these could exist on Mars and feed off the water ice or any of this ice that might melt below the surface but even if such microbes are confirmed on Mars it is doubtful that they would resemble similiar microbes called methanogens on earth if these microbes on Mars are native to Mars. If these methane expiring or other microbes are found on Mars, I as a Bible believing and creationist Christian would still not have a problem with this. I would believe that this is what God created and would show even more his wisdom and knowledge and power. I also don't think there is a problem with this in the Bible since such microbes if they exist would obviously have no spirit and would need no prayer or saviour as some hypothetical humanoid or spirt possessing extraterrestrial life would. The latter is what I believe if found would present more theological problems for Bible believing Christians. But even on scientific grounds such as the lack of convincing evidence from all the Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) searches I think it is not likely that there is humanoid or spirit possessing extraterrestrial life (except of course for angels and demons that are clearly said to be the heavenly host in the Bible.)
On December 8, 2009 there was an article on the Physorg.com web site titled Life on Mars theor boosted by new methane study. In this article the authors commented that any methane in the atmosphere of Mars couldn't last long because it would be broken up by the solar wind streaming into Mars' atmosphere without the protection from a substantial magnetic field as Earth has. Some leading theories for the nonbiological production of this methane have been volcanoes and perhaps more recently meteors from outer space. However this article concluded that neither of these sources could come close to producing the amount of methane observed in the atmosphere of Mars. There seem to be two remaining candidates for what produces the methane in the atomosphere of Mars. One is that previously produced volcanic material, of which there is some on Mars, reacts with water to produce the methane. The other possibility is the most interesting and exciting for many people including myself which is that the methane is produced by microbes in the soil of Mars or perhaps under the surface. If there were microbes on Mars it would be very interested to determine their nature such as if they are based on DNA as practically all Earth life or on some other organic chemistry. If any possible Mars life is based on DNA it could unfortunately be contamination from Earth even though scientists have been very careful to try to prevent this with all the probes sent to Mars especially landers or rovers. However if these microbes are not based on DNA it is prettly certain they would be distinct Martian life and could give us profound insight into the possibilities of extraterrestrial life in other solar systems and remove some of the terrestrial bias we might still have for the possibility of extraterrestrial life. I am not sure what scientific effort there currently is to try to confirm or eliminate the possibility of the Martian methane being produced my reactions with volcanic rock and water or on the other hand that life is indeed responsible for the production of the methane but the public interest in this subject should put much pressure on the scientific community to get the bottom of this matter. As a Bible believing Christian I say again I personally don't have a problem with some extraterrestrial life certainly with microbes or even something like plants or animals but where I do have a problem is with intelligent humanoid life. With humanoid life there is also the spiritual dimension and whether such a race even sinned against the true God the God of the Bible and the God of heaven and earth and if so whether God would have sent a saviour for them or somehow gave them word about Jesus dying for sins here on earth. This to me sounds like God wouldn't allow this to happen and there is also the matter about why God hasn't been more explicit in the Bible about mentioning such hypothetical people and asking us to at least pray for them.
The main line of evidence that suggested there could still be at least bacteria life on Mars was the discovery of the creation of gullies down the sides of some craters on Mars that were created in the last couple years. It is quite certain these gullies were created in the last couple years because they were present in the most recent close up pictures of Mars from orbitting spacecraft but not present in pictures taken from Mars orbiters several years ago. As I mention earlier on this web page they have been with some justification been interpreted as evidence of the recent flow of liquid water but now after closer examination of the evidence it has been decided as recently reported on www.space.com that these gullies were created not at all by water but just by a land slide of completely dry material from the upper parts of the crater rims. As far as I know this conclusion is has been quite carefully considered before being announced and might be very difficult to overcome as most date and options have already been taken into account. Unfortunately this leaves a much less appealing and romantic current picture of Mars but one we might have to accept unless we find any other features that can be explained more conclusively by liquid water or living organisms such as bacteria.
Another matter for which there has been gathering evidence that points to a less hospitable condition for life on Mars in this case in the ancient past when it is known beyond any doubt that there was substantial bodies and flows of liquid water on much of Mars is the following. It has now been determined that Mars in the evolutionary time scale up to 3.8 billion years ago although I am sure with access to the date there could be as credible explanation that it was only several thousand years ago that Mars was much too acidic in the liquid water that then was there for even bacteria or microbial life to exist or survive. This is argued on the basis of the fairly widespread presence of the mineral Jarosite which is comprised chiefly of iron sulfate which apparently can only be created or maintained in water that is very acidic - too acidic to even support microbial life. Although there are still other parts of Mars that haven't been explored as much or for which the past water might still be proved to be less acidic than some of these areas investigated by the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the indication that two widely separated areas on Mars have remains of Mars' watery past that was too acidic for even microbial life should encourage a further shift to extrasolar planets as places for which not just microbial life in the past or present but even large scale life like plants and animals might not only be possible but a reality now as well as in the remote past and that would provide habitable environments for humans or earthlings to travel to and make settlements on eventually. In a biblical Christian view which holds that the time is short at most several years but perhaps much shorter before the Lord at least takes his church to heaven then seven more years for the tribulation, the most likely time for any manned mission to extrasolar planets on which life might be found or which have a tolerable temperature, liquid water and a life-supporting atmosphere would be in the 1000 year Messianic Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although it is even more likely there will be habitable planets in the eternal age these will be part of the new heavens and not the existing heavens and we likely will then reach them only with our heavenly bodies while in the Messianic Kingdom technology could be developed, perfected and used to reach them by nuclear rocket or other perhaps yet unforseen or still fictional technology.
On July 16, 2008 it was announced that the discovery of the widespread presence of the mineral phyllosilicates on Mars indicates that from 4.6 to 3.8 billion years on an evolutionary timescale or perhaps to just after the curse on mankind about 6000 years ago on a biblical timescale most areas of Mars were drenched with liquid water. These rocks were turned to clays and similiar materials by the persistant and pervasive liquid water at that time. These clays had abundant Iron, Magnesium, Aluminum, Mica and Kaolinate. The water had actually become part of the crystal structure of the rocks from that time which also suggests the persistant flow and abundant availability of liquid water. At first it was thought there were only a couple places on Mars where rocks consisting of these Phyllosilicates occurred but on closer examination they have been found to be much more common almost everywhere on Mars. The conditions that gave rise to these Phyllosilicate rocks especially their widespread distribution on Mars indicates that at least at that time Mars was very hospitable to life. More recent rocks however have been altered to contain sulfates which would form where there is significantly less water and under which conditions life would be much more difficult if not impossible because of the acidity of any water containing these sulfates. These are the type of rocks found in the northern equatorial part of Mars by the NASA Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Scientists are now trying to determine what areas of Mars would have a greater abundance of these Phyllosilicate rocks especially near the surface for future rover missions such as the NASA Mars Sciene Laboratory due to launch in 2009.
In August 2010 it was announced in an article on the BBC titled Beer microbes live 553 days outside ISS that some microbes brought to the outside of the International Space Station survived the full about 1 1/2 years in that place. These bacteria were brought back to earth and found to be still living and healthy. They are a variety of cyano-bacteria that is dependent on cyanogen compounds. They were brought up to the International Space Station within some rocks brought from a seaside cliff on the south of England. They were put on this rock on the outside of the space station and left there for 1 1/2 years. This would subject them to much radiation and extremes of temperature and cause any water to be boiled away that was in the rocks. These bacteria sometimes called OU-20 for the Open University in Britain that was conducting the experiments also thrive in extreme locations on earth such as deserts and Antartica. This will lend support to the idea that earth microbes could survive the trip from Earth to Mars or the Moon or Venus or similiar places when large meteors or asteroids hit the earth and cause some of the debris to escape from Earth. This should also reinforce the need to be careful with even any unmanned spacecraft that are sent to Mars and especially any manned mission when we can see the hardiness of some Earth microbes. If similiar microbes are found on Mars they should be suspect as coming from Earth if they have similiar DNA as Earth bacteria as it is unlikely God would create any independent life on another world with the same DNA basis as life on Earth.
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