The search for life on Mars: how the University of Cincinnati is involved

The University of Cincinnati is one of just a couple of dozen universities in the world that is partaking in the latest research on Mars.
The search for life on Mars: how the University of Cincinnati is involved
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The University of Cincinnati is one of just a couple of dozen universities in the world that is partaking in the latest research on Mars.

The Perseverance Rover Mission just surpassed its first year of the mission, capturing stunning images of Mars on the surface in addition to recording sounds of the neighboring planet.

UC Associate Professor Andrew Czaja and two UC College of Arts and Sciences doctoral students are working on the NASA science team to search for evidence of ancient life on the red planet.

The mission also allows scientists to look beneath the surface of Mars, see what kind of materials the rock is made of, and will give the scientists at NASA and the University of Cincinnati a better understanding of what the composition of the rock is in the planet.

Regardless of the outcome of the mission, this is big for the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati. “It means everything professionally I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this team that’s doing this – looking for evidence of ancient life on another planet and that I could be part of a team that helps discover that there’s life elsewhere in the universe,” said Dr. Czaja of what this means to him to be on such a mission.

Dr. Czaja served on the NASA advisory board that picked where to send the rover for the best chance to find the evidence that started this mission.

Andrea Corpolongo, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati explained the location that these scientists are taking the rover toward is the Jezero Crater. Corpolongo said it is, “a paleolake; so [the crater] is in an environment that [was] very wet in a crater, and from what we understand, it has the ingredients that would be needed for life.”

It was near what is believed to be an ancient river delta, and the Perseverance rover will be digging into the rock on Mars, going beneath the red surface and searching for microfossils. Dr. Czaja is also a paleontologist, and he said, “another big thing we want to know about Mars is was there ever life there and we think there could have been but it’s unlikely that there’s life on the surface now so it might be fossil life that we find.”

If Perseverance finds what looks like solid evidence of ancient life, confirmation will likely have to wait until a return mission happens so the rock samples can be further analyzed to conclude the mission on the search for ancient extraterrestrial life.

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