Mars Robotics - Robotic Exploration of Mars

NASA's Mars Exploration Program (MEP) is managed by JPL. For many years, this program has been conducting a series of robotic missions to investigate Mars. 

  • The success of the Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rover, and Mars Science Laboratory missions has shown that autonomous rovers can effectively and efficiently explore the surface of Mars and collect scientific data in small regions. 
  • As a consequence, the MEP has created an ambitious long-term strategy for in situ exploration based on a consensus among top Mars scientists. 
  • The hunt for past or current life on Mars is the highest priority objective. 

For instance, a JPL website addresses the question, “Why Explore Mars?” 

  • Mars has the most pleasant environment in the solar system after Earth. 
  • It was once so welcoming that it might have supported primitive, bacteria-like life. =
  • Outflow channels and other geologic structures on Mars' surface offer sufficient evidence that liquid water flowed billions of years ago. 
  • Although liquid water may exist deep under Mars' surface, the temperature is presently too low and the atmosphere is too thin for liquid water to exist at the surface. 

What caused the climate on Mars to change? 

Were the prerequisites for the emergence of life ever exist on Mars? 

Is it possible that microorganisms in the subsurface are still living today? 


These are the kinds of questions that motivate us to go to Mars. 

Mars' environment has clearly cooled significantly.... 

We must initially ask the following questions when we begin to explore the cosmos and seek for planets in other solar systems: 

Is there evidence of life on another planet in our solar system? 

What are the bare minimum requirements for the emergence of life? 

Four topics were prioritized by the Mars Exploration Program 

  1. Look for traces of a previous existence. 
  2. Investigate hydrothermal environments. (The chances of finding evidence of past and current life have considerably increased.) 
  3. Look for the current moment. 
  4. Investigate the development of Mars. 

The hunt for proof of previous life was the main short-term aim. If hydrothermal vents were identified (which they haven't yet), the search would be narrowed down to those areas. 

The hunt for current life would “follow on from previous orbiting or landing missions discovering that current Mars conditions have the capacity to sustain life.” 

Only if the... presently accepted theories for Mars' climatic history are wrong will the subject of Martian evolution be highlighted. 

If future missions show that there is no convincing evidence of wet conditions on ancient Mars involving standing bodies of water, as has been interpreted from orbital remote sensing to date, the program's current focus on the search for surface habitats will be lowered significantly — unless, of course, liquid water is discovered on or near the surface of Mars today. 

With this unexpected finding would arise the conundrum of how the terrestrial planets developed so differently, despite their striking resemblance. 

Liquid water, on the other hand, is unstable at Mars' surface temperatures and pressures. 

As a result, standing pools of liquid water cannot exist on or near Mars' surface. 

Liquid water might theoretically exist far under the surface, where temperatures are greater, and liquid water under pressure could sometimes rush up to the top owing to a subterranean event, where it would rapidly freeze. 


The loss mechanisms and sinks for water and CO2 on Mars would be studied throughout time, as well as comparisons of the parallels and differences between the three terrestrial planets: 

Venus, Earth, and Mars. More than 130 terrestrial and planetary scientists gathered at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to study early Mars. 

The report's primary topic was the hunt for life on Mars. In their 26-page study, the term "life" appears 119 times, or almost five times each page. 

According to the report's introduction, "perhaps the single most compelling reason scientists find this early period of Martian geologic history so compelling is that its dynamic character may have given rise to conditions suitable for the development of life, the creation of habitable environments for that life to colonize, and the subsequent preservation of evidence of those early environments in the geologic record." 

“Did life emerge on early Mars?” was listed as one of the three “top scientific questions linked to early Mars.” 

“The issue of Martian life contains basically three fundamental aspects,” the study continues. 

  • The first was the idea that Mars might have had its own separate genesis of life. 
  • The second was the possibility of life developing on one planet and then being transported to another via impact ejection and gravitational capture (i.e., panspermia). 
  • The third looked at the possibility of life on Mars having survived and developed after its first appearance. The study goes on to say that “how life starts anyplace remains a basic unsolved mystery,” and that “the closeness of Earth and Mars raises uncertainty as to whether Earth and Mars had genuinely separate beginnings of life.” 

Microorganisms may have been transferred between the two worlds as a result of meteoritic collisions, such as those that brought Martian meteorites to Earth. 

In the distant geologic past, impact events were much more common and significant, including at the time when life started on Earth. 

As a result, it's impossible to say if the finding of life on Mars entails the discovery of a genuinely separate genesis of life. 

Because liquid water is thought to be a required (but not sufficient) prerequisite for life to develop from inanimate materials, the Mars scientific community puts a high priority on finding evidence of liquid water's previous effect on the surface (it cannot exist there under present conditions). 

The hunt for evidence of previous circumstances that might have supported life on Mars is still a major focus of the mission. 

The key issue for Mars exploration, according to the MEP, is: Is there life on Mars? 

Among the many discoveries we've made about Mars, one stands out above the rest: 

the possibility of liquid water on Mars, either in the distant past or now in the subsurface. 

Water is essential because life exists nearly everywhere on Earth where there is water. 

If Mars previously had liquid water, and if it still does now, it's intriguing to speculate about whether microscopic life might have evolved on its surface. 

Is there any proof of life on the earth in the past? 

Is it possible that any of these small live organisms survive today? 

Consider how thrilling it would be to say, "Yes!" 

  • The first science goal is to find out whether life has ever existed on Mars. 
  • NASA will need to undertake multiple missions over the next several decades to determine if life ever existed on Mars. 
  • Similarly, the hunt for life lies at the heart of NASA's exploration of other planets in the solar system and beyond. 
  • A hunt for life on Titan, Saturn's moon, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) using radio telescopes are among them. 

The focus on life in the NASA community has swayed a number of otherwise competent and even prominent scientists to develop programs, papers, and reports to analyze, hypothesize, and imagine the possibility of liquid water and life on other planetary bodies, with a particular focus on Mars—and the press has exaggerated these occasional musings. 

Mars scientists are under a lot of pressure to discover implications for water and life in their research. 

An interesting article reports on an interview with Steve Squyres, the project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers mission. 

The following are two extracts from the article: 

According to reports, Squyers believes the rovers would provide answers to two questions: 

"Are we alone in the universe?" and "How did life come to be?" 

Most significantly, they've discovered signs of water on Mars. There is life where there is water. It's hard to believe Squyres really stated this. 

How can the media say such ludicrous things? 

What proof is there that a planet with liquid water had life at some point? 

Isn't it possible to tell the difference between essential and sufficient? 

Although water is essential for life, is it sufficient? 

There is no proof that it is. And who in their right mind thinks the MER rovers will provide a solution to the issue of how life forms? 

This isn't science at all. It's the worst kind of pseudoscience. 

In regular news releases ascribed to renowned and competent space experts, the Internet is full with crazy erroneous claims. 

P.S ~ When did science go from proving hypotheses with measurements, cautious understated conclusions, and carefully verifying ideas before going public—to wild untested statements, baseless claims, and repeated press releases reporting nonsense?

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