To Mars and beyond: How a new Mars rover mission could unlock answers about Earth

How and why life began on Earth is still a mystery to scientists. A mystery they hope to solve by looking around our solar system.

Posted: Oct 1, 2018 10:17 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - How and why life began on Earth is still a mystery to scientists. A mystery they hope to solve by looking around our solar system.

One Purdue professor is getting behind the exploration.

“We really just have no idea where life comes from,” said Briony Horgan, Assistant Professor of Earth Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “All we have is us, all we have is the Earth."

So scientist are turning to Earth's neighbor to look for answers to some big questions.

"Is there life beyond the Earth? Even just microbial life would be an incredible find,” she said. “But beyond that, what kind of life was really common in the early parts of a planet's history?"

Horgan is also on the team of NASA scientists hoping to find the answers to these questions with a new Mars rover.

Just a short 140,000,000 miles trip from Earth sits Mars, a planet that scientists easily classify as the most similar to Earth. With habitable temperatures, clouds in its sky, one can see two tiny moons in the nighttime sky, and many scientists believe water once flowed across the planet’s now desert-like surface.

"That rover is going to launch in 2020 and we are going to be looking for signs of ancient life on Mars," she said. She added that they are still working on a name for the new rover that should be finalised shortly.

And when she says ancient, she means ancient.

"We mean something like three and half to four billion years ago," she said.

Right around the time Earth started showing early signs of life.

Rocks that are key to learning more about our planet's beginnings don't exist here anymore. But she said Mars is special in that it hasn’t had much geological change over those billions of years, meaning those rocks do exist there.

And they are hoping these rocks are the key to learning more about Earth, and more about the possibility of life on Mars and humans living on the red planet one day.

"Our only chance right now until we find another intelligent civilization is to try to look at other planets in our solar system," she said.

Something Horgan is ready to discover.
"It's a new frontier for us to get to go exploring to search for our roots to try to understand why is Earth special," she said.

Ten to 15 years from now, they hope to bring samples collected on that mission back to Earth. Until then, NASA’s rovers and orbiters will rely on cameras that take detailed photos and chemical data of minerals and textures to determine where signs of life might be hidden.

Click here to learn more about the NASA Mars 2020 rover mission.

Terre Haute
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 76°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 73°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 71°
Rockville
Broken Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 71°
Casey
Few Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 74°
Brazil
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 76°
Marshall
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 76°
Sunny and Nice
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 185993

Reported Deaths: 7742
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1077444902
Lake12223440
DuPage11689513
Kane9336298
Will8729340
Winnebago3704127
St. Clair3696156
McHenry2991114
Madison226673
Kankakee169868
Rock Island161532
Champaign157619
Peoria139935
Unassigned1365197
Kendall129523
Sangamon105733
DeKalb87129
Boone73923
Jackson65819
McLean58415
LaSalle57720
Macon50223
Adams4545
Randolph4357
Coles41119
Tazewell4068
Ogle3835
Clinton35317
Williamson3445
Stephenson3216
Whiteside32016
Union30521
Grundy2875
Monroe28413
Knox2651
Iroquois2509
Vermilion2182
Henry2081
Morgan2056
Cass20311
Jefferson19117
Warren1840
Bureau1542
Lee1482
Montgomery1477
Macoupin1423
Marion1400
Franklin1340
McDonough13315
Perry1261
Effingham1191
Christian1174
Jo Daviess1161
Saline1151
Woodford1063
Douglas1032
Livingston962
Pulaski910
Logan870
Jersey731
Mercer733
Clark700
Shelby631
Moultrie620
White600
Johnson590
Washington590
Fayette583
Bond572
Jasper557
Piatt510
Wayne501
Menard490
Cumberland472
Carroll463
Gallatin450
Lawrence430
Mason430
Ford421
Alexander360
Hancock351
Massac340
Wabash330
De Witt310
Crawford290
Fulton280
Edgar260
Hamilton230
Marshall220
Greene210
Hardin170
Schuyler170
Clay150
Edwards140
Richland140
Brown130
Pike130
Scott110
Henderson90
Putnam90
Calhoun80
Pope80
Stark70
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 69255

Reported Deaths: 2996
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15029724
Lake7139273
Elkhart463077
Allen3662158
St. Joseph320379
Hamilton2543104
Hendricks1774105
Vanderburgh176312
Cass17549
Johnson1667118
Porter120939
Tippecanoe111811
Clark110945
Madison86265
LaPorte84329
Howard82465
Kosciusko82213
Bartholomew74847
Marshall74422
Floyd71845
Monroe69530
Delaware65452
Boone64446
Dubois64312
Noble63729
Hancock62838
Jackson5544
LaGrange54610
Warrick52830
Shelby52226
Vigo50910
Grant50729
Dearborn47328
Morgan43732
Henry36418
Clinton3603
White34710
Montgomery34221
Wayne33410
Lawrence33127
Decatur31832
Harrison30022
Miami2592
Scott25210
Daviess24919
Greene24034
Putnam2338
Franklin22911
DeKalb2214
Jennings21312
Jasper2102
Gibson2024
Steuben2013
Ripley1907
Perry17212
Orange16424
Starke1647
Fayette1627
Wabash1613
Posey1600
Jefferson1522
Carroll1482
Whitley1486
Fulton1472
Knox1340
Wells1342
Huntington1193
Tipton1176
Washington1171
Spencer1123
Newton11110
Randolph1074
Clay1015
Adams822
Owen821
Jay810
Rush804
Sullivan781
Pulaski711
Brown701
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford552
Ohio514
Parke481
Pike470
Crawford440
Switzerland430
Martin420
Vermillion420
Union330
Warren191
Unassigned0202