Exploration of Mars runs the risk of being deceived by fake fossils, researchers say

Mars has now become the new frontier, with most space nations focusing on exploring the Red Planet. The idea behind exploring Mars is to find signs of life, understand its climate, and determine natural resources. However, new research suggests that explorers looking for ancient life on Mars could be misled by specimens that appear to be fossils. Martian rocks can contain many types of non-biological deposits that resemble fossils likely to be found if the planet has already supported life, he says. Researchers say these “fake fossils” hinder the success of Mars exploration missions.

The researchers, at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, examined the evidence and identified dozens of processes that could have produced life-like samples that may have existed on Mars. These processes can create deposits such as bacterial cells and carbon-based molecules that look like close relatives of cells of all known life.

Astrobiologists, whose study was published in the Journal of the Geological Society, say signs of life can be closely mimicked by non-living processes, the origins of any fossil specimen found on Mars are likely to be very fuzzy . This requires more interdisciplinary research to better understand how realistic deposits might form on the Martian surface.

“At some point, a Martian rover will almost certainly find something that looks a lot like a fossil. It is therefore essential to be able to confidently distinguish them from structures and substances produced by chemical reactions, ”said Dr Sean McMahon, Chancellor’s Fellow in Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh.

Today there are more spaceships operating on Mars than on any other planet outside of Earth. NASA landed a rover named Perseverance with the Ingenuity helicopter on the surface of Mars, while India sent an orbiter called Mangalyaan to the Red Planet.

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