NASA Spirit Rover: Do Silica Deposits Finally Prove That There Is Life On Mars?

NASA Spirit Rover: Do Silica Deposits Finally Prove That There Is Life On Mars?

Did the NASA Spirit Rover find a sign in 2008 that life on Mars exists? The NASA Spirit Rover was doing what it does best and was investigating the Martian terrain. During one of its missions, the Spirit Rover stumbled upon a crater that had deposits of a mineral known as opaline silica. Eight years ago, scientists that looked over the data from the Spirit Rover, NASA scientists didn’t know what to think of it at the time, although they were intrigued by the cauliflower like shape of the silica deposits.

Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer are scientists from the University of Arizona and they have a theory about how the silica deposits that the NASA Spirit Rover found. Their theory is that Martian life in the form of microbes were responsible for silica deposit. Their theory would become more plausible when similar deposits were found in the deserts of Chile, right here on Earth.

The desert in Chile is thought to be the closest Earth representation to what NASA’s rover is studying on Mars. With Mars so far away, it is easier for scientists to study places on Earth that are similar to what we would expect to find on other planets in our solar system. Kurt Konhauser from the University of Alberta explains why it is important to study places on Earth that are similar to where we want to go.

“I don’t think there is any way around using modern Earth analogs to test where Martian microbes may be found.”

The location of the opaline silica deposits in Chile were found in a place where hydrothermal vents once existed. Microbes have been found to live inside of hydrothermal vents which we never thought would be possible. These newly discovered forms of life that were discovered in extreme heat conditions were given the name thermophiles. If microbes can survive the harsh environment of hydrothermal vents, then they can survive on Mars.

What Is Opaline Silica?

Opaline silica is very common on Earth. It is made up of silicone, oxygen, and hydrogen. The chemical formula is SiO2·nH2O. It is used for ceramics, filtration units, cat litter, and many other things. Opaline silica is also found in plants. When plants decompose, the opaline silica gets absorbed into the surrounding soil.

This is not the first story about a Mars rover finding signs of life on Mars. Two of the most recent claims came from pictures captured by the newest rover that is living on Mars. The pictures appeared to show a rat and a woman. The majority of people believe that the pareidolia phenomenon and the angles of light and shadows are what was causing people to see what they claim to see in the pictures taken by the rover. Conspiracy theorists believe that the shadow and light story were manufactured by “the powers that be.”

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If this leads to proving life on Mars exists, then this may go down as the greatest discovery in human history.

Is the 2008 discovery of opaline silica by the NASA Spirit Rover finally going to be the smoking gun that proves that life on Mars is not science fiction? Will we have to wait until NASA starts sending manned missions to Mars before an announcement of extraterrestrial life is made?

[Image Via NASA/JPL]