Could Mars support life?

Mars rover Curiosity

A duplicate of the Mars rover, “Curiosity.”
Image: Christopher Halloran /

This is a question that many are asking, especially since NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory—AKA Curiosity Rover—was sent to Mars 16 months ago. Its major objective was to determine if Mars had, in the past, been able to support microbial life. And if so, could it do the same again someday?

It’s been nearly a year and a half, and recently a team of researchers revealed that the rover had found one key thing on Mars: evidence of an ancient freshwater lake. Evidence of the lake was found in the floor of the Gale Crater “Yellowknife Bay” while examining sedimentary rocks that appear to have been formed by mud or clay. The researchers say that the lake probably existed about 3.6 million years ago and may have held drinkable water.

Evidence collected showed that the water would have contained several basic and essential elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur. It’s possible that basic microbial life, such as bacteria, could have existed there. However, thus far there is no evidence of any intelligent life forms.

lake on Mars

Curiosity found evidence of a freshwater lake on Mars.

“Shortly after we landed, Curiosity found evidence that liquid water had flowed across the surface long ago in Gale crater,” said Jim Bell of Arizona State University. Bell also says that drilling activities have revealed that there also appears to have been “an active groundwater system in Gale crater that significantly weathered ancient rocks and minerals.”

As to the question of whether there ever were any Martians, that’s in the next phase of exploration. Sanjeev Gupta said, “The next phase of the mission, where we will be exploring more rocky outcrops on the crater’s surface, could hold the key to whether life did exist on the red planet.”

What do you think? Was there ever intelligent life on Mars? And could the red planet someday be a second home to humans?