Life on Mars

Nathan Yee (Nutritional Science; Earth and Planetary Sciences)

Are we alone in the universe? Where did life begin? Is there life on Mars? How do we detect life on another planet? These are some of the biggest questions in science today. Since August 2012, the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity has been exploring the planet Mars and returning a wealth of new information about the Martian surface. Its mission is to determine the planet's habitability and assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support microbial life. Recent data from Curiosity suggest that an ancient Martian lake may have harbored microbes that eat rocks. In this seminar, we will examine the new data returned by Curiosity and critically analyze the evidence for life on Mars. We will discuss the methods for life detection and evaluate the claims of bacterial fossils in the Martian meteorite ALH84001. Finally, we will explore the planetary chemistry required to sustain life and debate whether or not microbes could have ever lived on Mars.

Course Number: 
11:090:101 section 15 index 14497