What would life on Mars be like?

Could there be life on Mars?  Scientists have long speculated (and continue to do so), although there’s more hope than ever.  They also wonder if humans might ever have a colony there.  But now the question is more like, “Would we want to?”

One of the reasons it’s improbable to find life on Mars is that the atmosphere doesn’t contain oxygen.  And it was thought that all organic life requires oxygen.  But a few years ago an organism was found that can live without sunlight and oxygen.  It’s a methanogen.  They eat hydrogen, breathe carbon dioxide, and belch methane.  A group of these were found in Idaho, living 660 feet underground.  They also exist in the digestive tracts of humans, causing gas.  If these bacteria are what life might be like on Mars, it might be a stinky place.

But there’s more.  Mars stinks naturally.  The surface of the red planet contains a very high concentration of sulfur.  Combined with other acids and minerals on Mars, it forms hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which is that rotten egg smell you may have experienced before.  And not only does it stink immensely, but it can cause headaches, and it is also explosive and poisonous.  So if you were living on Mars, you might be tempted to light a candle to reduce the stench (as some people are accustomed to doing), and KA-BOOM!

I’m thinking I’ll just stay here on Earth.  While there’s a few bad smells to deal with here, it’s not nearly so bad as it would be on Mars.


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