Do you look up to the sky on a clear night and wonder what’s out there? People have been contemplating the night sky for millennia; and for centuries we have wondered: Can there be life on Mars? As you know, countless books and movies have been written and filmed depicting an invasion by eerie looking beings from the red planet.
You may be surprised to know that life on mars may be similar to how it is here at home – at least how it was here some 640 million years ago. In order to understand how life could exist on mars, first we have to know what life requires to take a foot hold on any given world.
If you have ever found yourself short of breath then you have become keenly aware how important oxygen. Oxygen is our most immediate need; it’s absence for just s few minutes can spell doom. Life as we know it requires this critical element.
Life here on earth began in the prehistoric seas. This because they contained enough oxygen. Scientists have reasoned that subterranean Martian lakes contained enough dissolved oxygen to support complex life forms, such as sea sponges.
The ramifications of there being sea sponges on mars are incalculable. These wonderful animals are the foundation of healthy and thriving bodies of water. Although researchers have detected subterranean lakes under Mars’ surface, they have yet to develop the technology needed to reach them and confirm their suspicions. Allow me to go further in detail as you read on.
Breathe Baby Breathe
You and I do it every second of every day we are here on earth -we breathe oxygen. This essential element for life as we know it did not appear on earth until some 2.4 Billion years ago (Live Science).This means that life on earth existed for over a billion years without oxygen. Can you imagine that?
Before oxygen filled the earth, single celled organisms ruled the planet. They did not require oxygen or even sunlight to live. Eventually the ancestors of present day cyanobacteria figured out a way to use energy from the sun to make energy – we call this photosynthesis.
A waste product of this new way of producing energy is oxygen. This new gas overspread the planet, giving more complex life forms, such as sea sponges, an opportunity to flourish – which they indeed have done. Plants today use sunlight in the same way in order to produce energy for themselves, and as result give off oxygen. We profit from that gas, which we simply could not live without.
So when we ask: Can there be life on mars?, we first need to know if there’s oxygen on the red planet.
Cambrian Explosion On Mars?
Isn’t Mars the most popular of all the planets? I have to say yes. It has penetrated our collective imagination with a vast array of books and movies about its inhabitants invading our planet.
Scientists have been wondering about life there for centuries. They have been well aware that its atmosphere doesn’t have enough oxygen to sustain life as we know it. Recently though, brine lakes have been discovered under the surface.
They speculate that these lakes can contain enough oxygen for multi-cellular life, such as sea sponges, to exist. Investigators in California have run tests which simulate the temperature and pressure found in these subterranean lakes. They calculated that these salty lakes can contain enough oxygen to support multi-cellular life forms like the sea sponge (The Borb Times).
This potential of the red planet to be another home to sea sponges is tantalizing. Can you imagine the same process of evolution that took place here on earth 640 million years ago, happening now on mars? It’s a real possibility.
Like on Earth, these martian sea sponges will be critically important for the equilibrium of those seas and the well-being of the creatures that inhabit it. Sea sponges maintain the health of the oceans by filtering its water and redistributing nutrients that become available to other animals such as fish.
The Awesome Sponge
Have you thought about the possibility of human exploration on the red planet? Imagine the benefit those explorers will have if sea sponges actually live in those martian seas. The benefits will be endless. The mere presence of sea sponges in a given body of water means that it is free of pollutants. Explorers will simply have to filter the excess salt and the water will be as good as spring water.
Thanks to the sea sponges’s redistribution of nutrients, the seas will very likely be teaming with fish and other creatures that could help sustain the pioneers on the planet. Sea sponges can make a world of difference to how successful humans will be on Mars.
A Great Potential
There have been many indicators that water once existed on the surface of the red planet, including ancient river valley networks (Wikipedia). This is the first time, however, that a body of liquid water that still exists today has been discovered. This body of water, which is 12 miles across, is located about a mile under the surface. It was found when scientists were using radar to probe the planet’s icy south pole (Daily Mail).3
Despite the fact that here on earth we have been able to develop drills that can dig about 7.5 miles, making that technology available and useful in mars in not possible at the present time. Until we are able to devise methods to reach those subterranean lakes, we will not be able to benefit from the presence of any sea sponges that may be living there.
A Cosmic Relative
The next time you look at the night sky and spot the planet Mars, you may wonder about extraterrestrial sea sponges living there. The possibility is real and the consequences are limitless. Scientists have calculated that subterranean salt lakes in Mars very likely contain enough oxygen to sustain multi cellular life like sea sponges.
Like on earth the presence of sea sponges on mars will have a tremendous impact on the chances of pioneers to survive on the red planet. These amazing creatures keep the water pollutant free by filtering. Through that same filtration they redistribute nutrients that are essential for other animals like fish.
It has been with the use of radar that these scientists have become aware of these liquid, salty lakes under the surface of Mars. Their calculations have shown that the possibility exists of there being enough oxygen to sustain organisms like sea sponges.
To this day, however, we don’t posses the technology to reach these lakes with a drill or otherwise. I’m confident that we will one day be able to reach these bodies of water and perhaps meet a cosmic relative of our own sea sponge.