Mars-like environments on Earth clue to life on Red Planet

Mars-like environments on Earth clue to life on Red Planet

The search for life on Mars has now got a new twist as researchers believe that a study of Mars-like environment on the Earth could help them better understand the clues to life on the Red Planet.

Funded by a new NASA grant, researchers will tour the three ages of Mars on the Earth - when Mars was cold, wet and habitable; the transition period when water disappeared; and the modern, dry period, Live Science reported.

The Mars-like environments include hot springs in California and Yellowstone National Park, permafrost on the cold Arctic islands, some of the Earth's oldest rocks in Australia, and volcanic lakes and soils in Chile.

"We chose these environments because we want to understand the signature of life on Mars at different times," said Nathalie Cabrol, the project leader and a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California in the US.

The SETI-led team will uncover "biosignatures" or evidence of life, with instruments similar to those NASA plans to install on the next Mars rover, expected to be launched in 2020.
The car-sized robot is designed to seek out ancient life.

By sharpening their skills in the Earth's extreme environments, the scientists hope to learn where and how to look for life when the rover arrives at Mars.

The research may also help narrow down the list of best landing sites on Mars for the rover.

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