• According to Gary King, a biologist at Louisiana State University, the surprising answer could be a scentless, atmospheric gas: carbon monoxide. In a new study in the science journal PNAS, King has concluded that enough of the gas seeps into Mars's soil from the planet's atmosphere to feed hearty lifeforms.
  • In this study, King took many different samples of Earth soils that scientists believe to be Mars-like (such as Hawaiian volcanic ash and salt flat sands of Utah). When he used them to simulate subsurface ultra-salty brines like Mars would have, the team found that an impressive amount of carbon monoxide was able to seep in, more than enough to support plenty of growing microbes.
  • Sadly, we have no current way to test whether King's team is right. Neither the Curiosity nor the Opportunity rover is equipped with the tools to detect life. But NASA is currently evaluating a proposed mission called Icebreaker Life that would be sent in 2021 and would be able to detect microorganisms.

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