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Life on Mars - Visual Investigation and implications to Planetary Protection

Written by Harry Rabb, M.Sc., Kirkkonummi, Finland.
Page created 1st of October 2013. Last updated 16th of November 2018.(What is new?).

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Newberries - Spheres with structure
3. Microbes on Mars ?
4. Blueberries
5. Pinnacle Island - Opportunity Sol 3540
6. Stromatolites and Microbialities

7. Publications by Science Groups
    - Perchlorate reducing bacteria and the biological potential of Gale crater subsurface
    - Rock Varnish - Manganese coated rocks
    - Methanogen microbes in simulated Martian environment
    - Lichens in simulated Martian environment
    - Biosignatures on Mars
    - Organic compounds and Phosphate
    - Special regions on Mars
    - Concepts of Life in The Contexts of Mars
    - Dissolution cavities in stones
    - Mars Meteorites
    - More Science publications

8. Fossils on Mars ?
9. Esperance - Opportunity Sol-3230
10. Other interesting objects on Mars
11. Interpretation of the Mars rover images

12. Curiosity, Darwin, Vikings and Planetary Protection
    - Curiosity and Charles Darwin, and writing between the lines
    - The Vikings 1976 - Evidence for Microbial Life on Mars
    - Chlorophyll and Fatty Acids observations
    - Visual Evidence for Life on Mars
    - Planetary Protection and Ethics

13. More Observations
    - Images from the orbit of Mars
    - Ice, Water and Moisture
    - Wheels and Deck of Curiosity and bio-corrosion
14. Astropaleontology
15. Colors in Mars
16. Epilogue: Mars - The Living Planet

17. Appendix A: References
    Appendix B: Image processing 
    Appendix C: Guidelines for visual search for life on Mars
    Appendix D: Fermi paradox
    Appendix E: SoCIA 2018 Astrobiology conference, University of Nevada, Reno


Introduction

Our Solar system was born 4.6 billion years ago. Below is link to Universe Today news article where chemist Steven Benner explains that after birth of the solar system, the best place for the birth of life was the planet Mars. The best conditions for forming the RNA-molecule were on Mars. The RNA works with the DNA in our every cell. According to theory the life in form of Microbes, including DNA and RNA, would have been transported to Earth with meteorites. When an asteroid hits a planet it can kick off stones, carrying microbes, to space. And later these stones, meteorites, can hit another habitable planet, like Earth. It has been estimated that about 5 billion meteorites, originated from Mars, have been hitting Earth during 4 billion years. After birth of Solar System Mars also cooled earlier than Earth, so the conditions were good for birth of life in Mars much before the Earth.
Read more:

Birth of life on Mars:
Universe Today 30.8.2013: Are We Martians? Chemist’s New Claim Sparks Debate

Transport of life to Earth:
European Planetary Science 13.8.2013: Could life have survived a fall to Earth?

Interesting article from Universe Today 29.7.2013 is:
Is Life On Mars Related To Life On Earth?

After the birth of the solar system Mars planet was warm planet with oceans, lakes and rivers maybe for 1 to 3 billion years. Also the atmosphere of Mars was thicker. Mars has liquid water even today. The water is mixed to soil and underground there is probably large reserves of water. On equator the temperature of air on day can reach +20 degrees Celsius and at night -80 degrees. The temperature of surface soil can reach +36 degrees Celsius for several hours during day at equator [63]. On polar caps the temperature is -120 degrees Celsius. The atmosphere pressure of Mars is now 0.8% of Earth atmosphere. Atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide. The chemistry of Mars and low atmospheric pressure keeps the martian salty water liquid in temperature range -70 degrees Celsius to +10 degrees Celsius [132,133]. That means that at equator of Mars the water mixed in the soil is in liquid state almost all the time.

Gravity on the surface of Mars is 38% of the gravity on Earth surface. There are occasional sandstorms. Year takes 686 days. The tilt of the rotation axis is 25 degrees. So there are yearly seasonal changes in weather conditions. In springtime the water ice of polar cap melts and water vapor clouds bring moisture to middle latitudes. After that large dark greenish areas appear in Mars. Those you can see in Hubble Space Telescope images below. This phenomenon has been known and observed in Mars since 1800 century [ref.63, MARS The Living Planet]. In Hubble images below I have marked with an arrow the Schiaparelli crater near Sinus Meridiani, so that comparison of images becomes easier. You can see that when the ice from south polar cap is small year 2005 the dark greenish areas cover more widely the southern hemisphere. The variations are not caused only by the sandstorms.

Fig.1.1. Mars now and long time ago.

If the RNA and life was born in Mars, as Steven Benner proposes, then probably the evolution process would have continued also in planet Mars.

On this web-page we study pictures taken by NASA Mars rovers Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit, to see if there are any signs of past or present life on Mars. Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012 and Opportunity and Spirit January 2004. We also check the results of science teams which have tested Earth microbes and lichens on simulated conditions of Mars. We handle the results of first ever life detection experiment on Mars, the Viking 1976 mission Labeled Release experiment by Gilbert V. Levin and Patricia Ann Straat. And we get to know the planetary protection issues raised by Carl Sagan, Barry E.DiGregorio and John D. Rummel. The theory by Steven Benner on life born on Mars and carried to Earth by meteorites, is actually a subset of Panspermia theories for which modern versions were developed by Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe.

Sol is the day of Mars, 24 hours 40 minutes. On this page I mention the Sol-x when a Mars rover took the picture. With that information You can fetch the original picture from Curiosity, Opportunity or Spirit rover archives ( Curiosity , Opportunity , Spirit archives) , which contain now over 800000 images. If there are hundreds of images on certain day, I have also mentioned the exact time UTC to make finding easier. I tell also for the images the exact archive identity which for Curiosity looks like 0304MH0265000016R0_DXXX, where 4 first digits is Sol number. From this identity it is possible to create direct link to image in archive like this:

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl-raw-images/msss/00304/mhli/0304MH0265000016R0_DXXX.jpg (MAHLI)
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl-raw-images/msss/00186/mcam/0186MR0927120000E1_DXXX.jpg (Mast Camera).

For Opportunity and Spirit both Sol number and identity are needed to form web-link, for example Sol 88 Mast camera image 1P135994587ESF1409P2542L4M1 by Opportunity:
https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer/gallery/all/1/p/088/1P135994587ESF1409P2542L4M1.JPG

I started the systematic visual study of Mars rover images, one by one, year 2013. Time spent in archives until 2017 is about 2000 hours. As a result of the study in this web page there is about 270 objects presented for which we can ask the question: Is this life or not, either past or present? Some of the objects have been presented earlier in NASA press releases, but most of the objects have not been presented. The study presented here got major improvements when I started co-operation with biologist Dr. Lyall Winston Small in October 2015. On year 2017 I was invited to Astrobiology meeting SoCIA 2018 in University of Nevada to present this study. See NASA Event description: Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology (SOCIA 2018).
Fig.1.2. Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit

Below is Opportunity view from Meridiani Planum, Sol 17, year 2004 and Curiosity view in Gale crater, Sol-538, year 2012.

Fig.1.3. View from Meridiani Planum and Gale crater.

Below left is a map of Mars with positions of Mars-landers. Blue areas are the ancient ocean floors. Green areas are sea-shore. Red areas are high lands. Curiosity and Opportunity are still working.
On right is view from Phoenix lander in middle of ancient ocean, year 2008. The rocket engines of Phoenix blew off 10 centimeters of sand. Under that a layer of ice was uncovered. Latest studies show that the ice layer may be several hundred meters thick: H.Kurokawa 2014: Thickness of Martian ground ice: Implication from multi-water-reservoir model. On equator, the results by Curiosity show that the surface soil contains liquid water even today (source: Morten Bo Madsen, April 2015: Mars might have liquid water ).

Fig.1.4.Mars landers on map.


Newberries - Spheres with structure

Below is image of structural spheres, which Opportunity rover discovered 6.9.2012 (Sol 3064). Place is ancient river-bed, named Kirkwood in Endeavour crater. Broken objects have internal structure. Link to NASA news about these: Puzzling Little Martian Spheres That Don't Taste Like 'Blueberries'. Opportunity Sol 3247 contains also these same objects. Note that these spheres differ completely from small Blueberry spheres which exists widely on Mars surface.

Fig.2.1. Newberries Click here to get high resolution picture (in Google photo album)

Below are more details about Opportunity Sol 3064 and another discovery Sol 3247. Notice inside the spheres especially the two threaded extensions with small nodules at the other end (images A, B and C). In images C, D and J we see a clear shell layer and a center in these spheres. In spheres E and F we see a stem attaching these spheres to something. So these spheres have quite complex structure. Can these fine internal details, which are repeated again in another location, be result of random processes of nature ? Or are we actually looking at ancient fossilized life? These Spheres have been named Newberries and You can read more about them in Opportunity science team publication: A.G. Fairén 2014: Hollowed spherules identified with the MER Opportunity near and at Cape York, western rim of Endeavour crater, Mars

Fig.2.2.Newberry details. Click here to get high resolution picture.

If we conclude that the Newberries are ancient fossilized life, then, as the result of evolution process, there are consequences for past and current life in Mars. If life was born in Mars, it must have been first primitive microbial life. Microbes survive even in extreme conditions of empty space [54]. And if there were microbes in early history of Mars then there are microbes even today, since a planet like Mars has always had good conditions for microbes, for example chemolithoautotrophs, in certain depth in underground soil. And the current conditions in soil at equator of Mars are good for certain type of microbes [12, 18]. There is moisture and water from 2 to 6 percent mixed in soil [41] and during daytime the soil temperature can be several hours even +36 degrees Celsius [63]. And there is all needed elements for life [17]. So if we think that Newberries are fossilized ancient life on Mars, then it is most probable that there is microbial life on Mars even today.

If we think that the Newberries are ancient fossilized life, then it is obvious that they are multicellular life and result of a longer evolution chain. Also it means that we could expect to find other species in images of Mars rovers. As you go further in this article, you will find out that this is the case.

It is notable that NASA scientists mandate the search of these kind of possible fossil structures in article published in July 2014: D.J. Des Marais,NASA Ames Research Center 2014: Concepts Of Life In The Contexts Of Mars. . Direct quote: ..Seek evidence of possibly biogenic physical structures, from microscopic (micronscale) to macroscopic (meter-scale), combining morphological, mineralogical, and chemical information where possible. Biogenic structure is a structure produced by life process.

Another interesting article is in Astrobiology Magazine December 8 2014 by Elizabeth Howell: How Did Life Become Complex, And Could It Happen Beyond Earth? In this article Frank Rosenzweig, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Montana, does not rule out development of multicellular life on Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan.

Below left: Curiosity Sol-132 (19.12.2012). There is shiny object in stone, looking like a clam shell, named Mars flower. Candidate for past life? On middle(Sol-173) and right(Sol-186): White objects grow in size during 13 days. Candidate for current life on Mars?

Fig.2.3. Candidates for life?

In ancient sea floor in Antoniadi crater there is interesting formations, looking like coral-reef.

Fig.2.4.Ancient reef on Antoniadi crater? Compare this to internet image search result for "coral reef from air".


Microbes on Mars ?

If Mars had life, then there could still be microbial life even today. This has been speculated before as one source of Methane sometimes coming to atmosphere of Mars. Curiosity has observed that the methane in atmosphere from time to time raises ten times higher compared to normal level (source: Christopher R. Webster, 16.12.2014: Mars Methane Detection and Variability at Gale Crater, and Christopher R. Webster et all, Science June 2018 Background levels of methane in Mars’ atmosphere show strong seasonal variations). In Earth only certain types of microbes produce methane, not all. In soil of Mars Curiosity observed methane ( source: S.Djordjevic 2014: Simulating Martian conditions: Methanogen survivability during freeze-thaw cycles ). Methanogens are organisms which are anaerobic, do not require organic nutrients, and are non-photosynthetic. In the tests reported in article above four species of methanogens were tested in laboratory in conditions simulating Mars: low air pressure, higher level of radiation and large temperature variations. Two of the methanogen species survived the tests and even reproduced. Read also related article by Italian geologist and environmental engineer Pietro Cambi, March 2017: There was life on Mars and not only on Saturday night ... (the link is a google translation of original Italian language article C'era vita su Marte e non solo il Sabato sera…). Cambi presents good arguments that the observed methane on Mars comes from biological origin. The abiotic hypothesis fail to produce the observed amount of methane by several orders of magnitude.

Another microbial species proposed to survive well in Martian conditions are chemolithoautotrophs. This species exists also widely in Earth underground and inside stones, even kilometers deep underground. They use the stones and minerals as energy source. The underground microbes may form 80 percent of all biomass on Earth [118]. There are also bacteria which interact with sulfates. Bacteria which interact with sulfur may play a role with in seasonal color changes of surface of Mars [63].

Below left: Curiosity Sol 304 (14.6.2013). There is something white in stone hole. Curiosity stopped on Sol 303 to take close up images of this with Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). Right: Opportunity Sol 3392. Microscopic camera shows holes and tubes with some small objects on them. Do we see here Martian organisms based on stone and minerals eating chemolithoautotroph microbes?

Fig.3.1. Curiosity Sol 304 and Opportunity Sol 3392.

You can get the Curiosity Sol-304 original image here and the Opportunity Sol-3392 image here.
Below is comparison of the Sol-303 and 304 white objects in stone hole with 26 hours difference.

Fig.3.2. Curiosity Sol 304 closeup. Click here to get high resolution picture.

When you study the Sol-303 and Sol-304 pictures, you notice fine grained sand left on places where there is no more white material. You could imagine that during the sandstorms of Mars this sand is blown away from the stone holes. From Mast Camera images of Sol-305 and 306 you can see that Curiosity is still exactly in same position besides this object, but there is no close up images with MAHLI of this object in the archive.

The Sol-304 and 306 images below are from the same stonewall. Here it is possible to consider possible development of stone holes, so that on left there is start situation with the white material on the surface and later development phase is on right. On right the A-arrow is the Sol-304 stone hole object presented above.

Fig.3.3. The Wall, Sol 305, Sol 306. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In image below there is a larger occurrence of the white material, Curiosity Sol-158. Notice the similarity of Sol-158 objects compared to Sol-304 object.

Fig.3.4. Sol 158 Click here to get high resolution picture.

Below is Opportunity Sol 3392 image composition.

Fig.3.4B. Opportunity Sol 3392. Click here for high resolution image.

Curiosity science-team published 6 remarkable articles in Science magazine 9.12.2013.. You can get the original articles under this link (select Reprint). One of articles is by the Curiosity principal investigator John Grotzinger, signed by 60 other scientists: 'A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars'. The main message of these articles is that Mars has had good conditions for life. Below is few highlights of the article.

In Curiosity science team article in Science magazine 9.12.2013 it is told that this John Klein area had a layer protecting from radiation as recently as 60 to 100 million years ago. The protective layer has preserved organic materials so that Curiosity is able to find them in chemical analysis. See article: NASA Curiosity: First Mars Age Measurement and Human Exploration Help.

In many Curiosity pictures there are white veins with nodules on the ground like in Sol-192 and Sol-181 images below, at John Klein site. In Sol-181 picture dust has been brushed away. And from drilling picture of Sol-270 image (drilled in sol-182) we see that the veins seem to go deep inside ground. Read this interesting NASA News about chemical analysis result of this drilling sample: NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars. In drilling picture it can be seen that under the thin red surface layer there is gray clay layer. There is 2-3 percent of water (locally even 6 percent) mixed in the soil. So the soil has moisture, which you can observe also visually in the drilling hole below. Great place for microbes to live.

Fig.3.5. Veins, Sol 192.Click here to get high resolution picture.

In high resolution picture you can see new white veins with new white nodules. And you can see old vein traces with old nodules without the white material. For the first time NASA gives as possible explanation possibility a living object for these white veins in article published in Science magazine 9.12.2013: "A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars".

An excellent, freely readable, study of microbial life on Mars is by Dr. Lyall Winston Small, September 2015: On Debris Flows and Mineral Veins - Where surface life resides on Mars. Dr.Small points out in his book, chapter 4.6, that mineral veins on Earth are often populated with microbial activity.

Below is comparison of John Klein area veins. Difference is 78 days. There are visible changes. Curiosity investigated John Klein area for 3 weeks and came back to check the area after 2 months.

Fig.3.6. Vein comparison, Sol 192-270. Click here to get high resolution picture.

The white veins and nodules exist very widely in Curiosity and Opportunity pictures. There is new veins and nodules and old ones without the white material visible anymore. They exist on the ground, deeper inside ground and on the stones. In image archives there are several pictures where you can figure out that parts of stones have dropped to ground just on the place where white veins were inside the stone (e.g. in Sol-303 images). Below is 2 more images to compare for changes during 78 days.

Fig.3.7.Another vein comparison. Click here to get high resolution picture.

At John Klein site Curiosity drilled first a test hole and after that the hole for getting a sample for analysis. Both in the test hole and in the final hole we see the white veins on the walls of the holes. Also in Cumberland sample hole we see the veins, but not on Windjana hole. So the John Klein and Cumberland samples both contained the white vein material, for which NASA has stated as one alternative the microbes. Analysis with SAM indicated organic materials in John Klein and Cumberland samples. John Klein test holes were drilled Sol-182. Curiosity was sent back to John Klein area in Sol-270 to check the place again. Can we see changes in John Klein hole veins during 78 days? The holes are only 1.6 centimeters wide. Having a lot of veins in 3 of the 4 sample holes, shows how widely spread the veins are in Mars. And they may be microbial. The images D and E are the same John Klein sample hole as C, but from another angle.

Fig.3.8. Underground veins. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Below left is Curiosity Sol 173 image, at site named John Klein. There is something white on the stone on the middle. On right is the same stone 13 mars days later, sol 186. The white material covers much larger area. In this place there are 4 of these white objects. One of them is in the low right corner under stone of this picture. And also look from middle of the picture to left to see one object in sideways. All of them are in shadow places, where the ultraviolet light of the Sun does not reach. Also they are under rock surfaces, which partly protect them from cosmic radiation. Could these shape changing white objects be related to white veins and nodules? From small images we can figure out that the object is there still 96 Sols later, Sol-269, when Curiosity came back again to investigate this area.

Fig.3.9.Fungi? Sol 173-269.

Below is another similar case, just about half meter right from above image. The temperature measurements of air by Curiosity indicated usually about +10..20 C on day and -80 C during the night. But twice, for some reason, the night temperature was only -5 C (Source: S.Djordjevic 2014: Simulating Martian conditions: Methanogen survivability during freeze-thaw cycles). One of these cases is around Sol-190 where we now see growth in size of these white objects. The temperature of surface soil can reach +36 degrees Celsius for several hours during day at equator [63]. And salty Martian water is in liquid state in temperature range -70..+10 degrees Celsius [132,133].

Fig.3.10.Fungi?

For comparison to something similar on Earth: Below left and center: images of one species of fungi growing on a piece of wood on my own backyard during 15 days. In small image 28.3.2016 are the same fungi 5 months later after Finnish winter with snow and -20 degrees Celsius temperatures. Image on the right: Compare this fungus on the surface of a tree in Massachusetts, USA, to Sol 1103 object coming little further below. On Earth there are about 5 million species of fungi, and they have existed in Earth at least from Precambrian time 600 million years ago. The oldest fossil remains of Fungi on Earth are 2.4 billion years old, a discovery by Geologist Birger Rasmussen from Curtin University in Australia: Peter Dockrill April 2017, The World's Oldest Fungus Might Have Just Been Found Buried Under South Africa

Fig.3.11. Fungi on Earth.

Below left, Curiosity Sol 173. There is something white under a 'stone' at John Klein site. On right 19 Mars days later, sol 192, the white objects are away.

Fig.3.12.Disappearing white objects. Sol 173-192.

There are 2 Mast Camera images of the objects in Sol-173, with 46 seconds difference. Interesting question is that why there is no traces left of these objects in Sol 192 ? For objects A and B it is possible to set a symmetry plane. And it is good to know that about 2 meters to the rigth from this place is a underground hole which shown later in this article in figure 13.5. In black and white navigation camera image it may be possible to say: the objects are not there 9 hours before in Sol 172. And that they are not there 8 minutes later, Sol 173 01:19:02 UTC.The objects are probably away also in this Sol-177 picture .

Fig.3.13.Disappearing white objects. Sol 173-192.

You may have a question that can some of Sol-173 objects be produced by frozen water or carbon dioxide ice? The temperature in the equator area where Curiosity and Opportunity are moving is on day +20 degrees Celsius and on night -80. The freezing point of carbon dioxide ice is -79 degrees Celsius in Earth pressure. And in low atmospheric pressure of Mars the freezing point is even lower. So it cannot be carbon dioxide ice. Could this be frozen water? Curiosity observed 2-3 percent of water in the soil (locally even 6 percent). The salty water in low pressure of Mars is in liquid state in temperature range -70 degrees Celsius to +10 degrees Celsius. But if this would be frozen water, then there should be these white objects a lot in images of Mars rovers. But that is not the case now. Also the shape of the Sol-173 objects is such that I cannot imagine them to be snow or ice. There is another disappearing white object in Sol-528 and 530 images below, where the object can be seen in Sol-528 image and it is not there anymore in Sol-530.

Fig.3.14. Disappearing white objects. Sol 528-530.

When you look at Sol 530 image you notice that the sand is darker below the former white object. And there are traces of a flow. But where does this liquid come from if we assume that this freezing and melting process has been going on here for thousands of years ? Liquid water very close underground in Sol 530 area?

Below are more candidates for possible microbial communities. Curiosity has used Chemistry camera to Sol 608 and 609 objects to analyze the chemistry of them. These both are just about 50 centimeters distance from the Windjana drilling site. In last row there is underground soil as result of failed test drilling. There are changes during 11 days. Note especially the dark greenish grains or patches which have appeared in Sol 880 image (arrows B and C). Normal sand grains should be reddish in color. The opportunity Sol 3502 has also interesting hole in low right part of image. From small Sol 3949 image you can see that the color of the Sol 3502 lichens resembling objects is white.

Fig.3.15. Microbial candidates. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In S-2 image seems like the white material is 'growing out' from the stone. The stone itself has nice greenish( or blue?) color as well as the sol 580 stone. Cyanobacteria ? Algae ? In Sol 580 and Sol-305 images i have embedded part of the images with auto white balanced versions, which reveals a strong blue color. The Sol-304 is close to Sol-305 object and also in the same stone wall as the Sol-304 'chemolithoautotroph' images in beginning of this web-page. The yellow color tones and formations in Sol 584 image are interesting. Curiosity science team investigated closely the Sol 1411 object, which resembles the Sol 305 S-2 object. The same stone has more of these, see collection image.

Fig.3.16. Microbial candidates. Click here to get high resolution picture.

An excellent, freely readable, study of possible microbial life on Mars is by Dr. Lyall Winston Small, September 2015: On Debris Flows and Mineral Veins - Where surface life resides on Mars. And see also Dr.Small's year 2012 book In search of life on Mars and his observations from Mars rover images in SmugMug. He is also the founder of Mars Rover Blog where Mars enthusiasts analyze images of Mars rovers. Check out for example discussion threads Yellowknife Bay and Mount Sharp - Extended Mission 1. On July 2016 Dr.Small made a new web site The Cosmos, Mars and Life, where he handles daily discoveries from Mars and also philosophical aspects of the discoveries.

Sol 2160 image by Opportunity is observations presented by Dr.Small in his book In search of life on Mars[137]. There is blue objects on stone surfaces resembling lichens in this area. This area has also Blueberries. Sol 925 area veins are interesting. Sol 1090 veins look very fresh. They are dustless and on top of geological formations. In sol 1063 green fresh looking material covers old geological formations.

Fig.3.17.Veins. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In images below are more lichens resembling blue objects presented by Dr.Small. Opportunity Sol 2144, 2145, 2147 and Spirit Sol 327. In Curiosity Sol 1433 image there may be similar objects. The Curiosity Sol 1433 is interesting, see this 1433MR0070800070702657E01_DXXX image.

Fig.3.18.Lichens? Blue pigment (K.L.)? Click here to get high resolution picture.

On Sol 1345 MAHLI images, Curiosity has driven over stones, which broke. Inside stones there is interesting patterns of white material. And on the nonbroken part of stone there is lichens resembling brown object.

Fig.3.19.Lichens? Click here to get high resolution picture.

See also very comprehensive article by Robert Walker, 2015: Places on Mars to Look for Microbes, Lichens, ... . Robert points out that for Earth microbes it has been previously thought that -20 degrees Celcius is the low limit life to survive. But recent studies show that bacterial activity inside glaciers survice -40 degrees Celcius. And there is even experiments with Colwellia psychrerythraea strain 34H to have activity at -196 degrees Celcius.

For the -20 degree Celsius limit for microbial life I have to point out one very simple and practical observation. I live in Finland where we have long cold winters. During the winter there can be several months long periods of -30..-20 degree celsius temperatures. Both microbial life and macroscopic life have developed methods to easily survive these long cold periods. As example is image below from my backyard on winter (-30..-10 C) and on summer(+10..+30 C) and local wildlife surviving in these conditions.

Interesting species tolerating extreme conditions are Tardigrades. They tolerate temperature range -272 C..+150C. They tolerate pressure from empty space to 6000 atmospheres. They tolerate 5700 gray radiation dose, when humans are killed with 5 grays. They can suspend their metabolism and go into a state of cryptobiosis. Perfect space travellers.


Blueberries

Below are images by Opportunity of spherical objects named Blueberries. Note from Sol 17 image how the blueberries give dark bluish appearance to the landscape. Can the large dark areas like Sinus Meridiani in Mars be partly caused by blueberries? Also note that the sky is blue, an issue which we handle at the end of this article in chapter Colors in Mars. Is there a recent waterflow traces visible in Sol 122 blueberry area? Read remarkable observations about blueberries by Dr. Lyall Winston Small in his year 2012 book In search of life on Mars. The images below present some of Dr.Small's observations.

Fig.4.1 Blueberries color landscape. Click here to get high resolution picture.

During 3 days from Sol 1145 to 1148 the size of Blueberries has got larger and there has appeared new blueberries in 3 days time. Also observe blueberry C: the hole in the sand has appeared on below-left area of the blueberry C. Has blueberry C done small movement while growing? Is there a stem under? It could be argued that wind has moved the sand, exposing the berries more in sol 1148. Counterargument is that in that case the mass of the sand would have moved the berries also, but the berries are stationary. A, B, C and N1 have exactly same relative position compared to eachother. Note the shape and features of berries A, B and C: they have not rolled. General question: What is the propability for lifeless stones to grow, just when Opportunity arrived there and pointed them with microscopic imager camera?

Fig.4.2 Growing Blueberries. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Note that several blueberries have a stem in Sol 88 image. See the surface patterns of blueberries in Sol 221 image. See in low-left corner the blue spot after grinding the stone. The blue channel continues inside the stone? Sol 1103 broken Blueberry has internal structure, which does not fit for a hematite spherule theory by NASA. Fungi on Earth can grow together like in Sol 182 image.

Fig.4.3 Blueberries with stem. Blue pigment? Click here to get high resolution picture.

On Sol 1232 Opportunity has driven over blueberries. The arrow points to blue stains resulted from overdriven blueberries. On Sol 1289 new rover tracks there is no more unbroken blueberries on surface. But in the same Sol 1289 image, the old rover tracs (done in Sol 952) have been refilled with blueberries again!

Fig.4.4 Driving over Blueberries. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Compare the blueberryfields between Sol 143 and 150 images. There is new berries in Sol 150, and some berries have got larger. In Sol 546 Opportunity has grinded soil where there is blueberries. 3 days later, Sol 549, the surface soil has changed. Sol 210 and 715: Broken old blueberries? In Curiosity images Sol 746, 1185, 1292 and 1355 there may be someting similar to blueberries.

Fig.4.5. Blueberries Click here to get high resolution picture.

Standard NASA explanation for blueberries has been that these are billions of years old hematite spherules born in ancient sea floor on Mars. But the images above force me to state other possibility. Remember that on Mars there is 2-6 percent liquid salty water mixed to the soil and air provides daily moisture. Fungi on Earth behave like this. Grow out from the ground. Can grow together like in Sol 182 image.

The biological nature of blueberries is also supported in science publications:

- Vincenzo Rizzo and Nicola Cantasano 2009, International Journal of Astrobiology 8 (4), Possible organosedimentary structures on Mars
-V.Rizzo and N.Cantasano 2011, Mem. S.A.It.Vol.82, 2011, Textures on Mars: evidences of a biogenic environment.


Pinnacle Island - Opportunity Sol 3540

Below is a rock which 'come out of nowhere', Opportunity Sol 3540 - 7.1.2014. Read more about it: The Rock that Appeared Out of Nowhere on Mars. The object was not there in Sol 3528. One option is that when Opportunity went past this place in Sol 3528, the wheel kicked of the stone to its current place. It would be a good theory if it would be a common Mars stone. But things got complicated: Opportunity made a chemical analysis for it. This object has high amounts of sulfur, magnesium and manganese. The chemical composition differs from anything Opportunity had analyzed in past 10 years. Also its appearance and color differs from common Mars stones. Object has been named Pinnacle Island. The Sol 3528 image in low left corner is the sharpest available "before" image. The problem with the 'stone rolled to its place' theories is that there is no debris, scratches or dislocated small stones around this object compared to Sol 3528.

Fig.5.1.Pinnacle Island. Click here to get high resolution picture.

The black and white pictures below are with microscopic camera of this object. There are changes on surface patterns visible in 10 days time in first row. In second row black and white pictures Sol 3541 and 3562 we possibly see three dimensional shape changes in the center( marked with blue circles) during 21 days.
Fig.5.2.Pinnacle Island, details. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Opportunity investigated this object for 4 weeks. In spite of that NASA has put only few images of microscopic camera of this object to archive. And Sol 3552-3559 of microscopic imager is missing totally. On 5th of February 2014 the very sharp images below were added afterwards to Sol 3560 archive. Don't we see here very clear microbial growth patterns on the surface of Pinnacle Island? Also the surface structure is interesting. Note that there are no sand grains on surface of this object. Do we see interference patterns in sub image A? Would the structure in sub image B have survived if Opportunity wheel kicked Pinnacle Island from underground?

Fig.5.3.Pinnacle Island, details. Click here to get high resolution picture.

One proposal for this object has been a composite organism called Apothecia which is a mixture of fungus and cyanobacteria ( Rhawn Joseph 2014: Apothecia on Mars? Life Discovered on the Red Planet). This object would have grown here. In that case we should probably find more of these in image archives. The John Klein site Sol-173 white shape changing objects belong to this category and the Blueberries as well. And more such candidates could be in Curiosity Sol 538 (10.2.2014) and Sol 533 images below. The objects below are about 1 meter distance from each other.

Fig.5.4. More fungi? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Also Sol-395 area is worth of investigating. After investigating Pinnacle Island for 4 weeks NASA gave an official press release that "We have solved this case, Pinnacle Island is just a rock". I am sorry that I have to disagree. The reason should be obvious when You study the Microscopic imager images of Pinnacle Island. And more reasons I handle later.

In figure 5.5 below is more candidates for fungi and lichens. In Sol 617 images K1..K5 there is yellow color (not covered so much by red dust) small objects in same area. In K-4 image there is 2 objects. The shape of Sol 617 X-5 object resembles Pinnacle island, covered by red dust. The shape of X-5 is also similar to K-4 upper object. In Curiosity Sol-647 image there is this nice greenish object in middle of red dust covered landscape. In Sol 890 images there is interesting structure on surface. Curiosity's laser has blown dust away from the surface of this structure. Usually the laser of Curiosity creates a hole to stone or sand. But in this case, has the material of this object expanded when heated? Martian lichens alive today? The Sol 173 has small yellow tone round objects on the stone. They have similarities with Spirit Sol 822 white objects.

Fig.5.5. Fungi? Lichens? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Several of the fungi type objects in Mars, especially Blueberries, are evaluated by biologists and geologists in article: 2016-5-15 R. Gabriel Joseph: A Low to High Probability of Life on Mars: The Experts' Top Five Candidates.The 40 biologists and 30 geologists who partisipated the survey, supported the view that the Mars images in the study contained living objects.


Stromatolites and Microbialities

Stromatolites are bacterial mats and colonies forming identifiable patterns. In Earth they have existed 3.5 billion years. You can read more about them in articles Wikipedia: Stromatolite and J. William Schopf 2007: Evidence of Archean life: Stromatolites and microfossils. Note in the articles the patterns that stromatolites form in Earth and compare them to images below.

The following science publications by Rizzo, Biancardi, Farias and Cantasano are also worth to read:

- Vincenzo Rizzo,Maria Eugenia Farias, Nicola Cantasano, Daniela Billi, Manuel Contreras, Francesca Pontenani, Giorgio Bianciardi, Cell Biology 2015: Structures/textures of living/fossil microbialites and their implications in biogenicity. An astrobiological point of view
- Giorgio Bianciardi, Vincenzo Rizzo, Maria Eugenia Farias and Nicola Cantasano, Astrobiology Outreach 2015: Microbialites at Gusev Crater, Mars.
- Vincenzo Rizzo and Nicola Cantasano 2009, International Journal of Astrobiology 8(4), Possible organosedimentary structures on Mars
-V.Rizzo and N.Cantasano 2011, Mem. S.A.It.Vol.82, 2011, Textures on Mars: evidences of a biogenic environment.

Rizzo, Bianciardi, Farias and Cantasano have studied similar patterns in images of Mars rovers, and they concluded that they are similar to Earth stromatolites. Here is direct quote of this conclusion chapter of this article:
The inorganic sedimentary processes follow simple rules, whereas the structures we described denote complex products, congruent to the terrestrial biogenic environment: life has existed and is still alive on Mars.

Below is few images with possible stromatolite patterns and formations in Mars by Curiosity and Opportunity.

Fig.6.1.Stromatolites. Click here to get high resolution picture.

The Curiosity Sol 632 image has repeating hexagonal patterns.Similar patterns are visible also in Pilbara region, Australia, as a result from microbial activity. NASA has established a research co-operation with Australian Macquarie University to compare the Pilbara region microbial fossil formations with similar Mars formations. See web-site by Dr.Simon George and Dr.Carol Oliver: NASA Macquarie University Pilbara Education Project. The Pilbara region has 3.43 billion year old microbial reef. The Sol 632 observation was done by Dr.Lyall Winston Small. See also Dr.Small's book about Martian stromatolites: The Living Rocks of Mars (2015).

Fig.6.2. Stromatolites. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Good investigation about this subject is by Nora Noffke, Astrobiology Volume 15, Number 2, 2015: Ancient Sedimentary Structures in the < 3.7 Ga Gillespie Lake Member, Mars, That Resemble Macroscopic Morphology, Spatial Associations, and Temporal Succession in Terrestrial Microbialites. Similar excellent investigation is Giorgio Bianciardi, Vincenzo Rizzo, Nicola Cantasano, 2014: Opportunity Rover’s image analysis: Microbialites on Mars?.

A good site about ancient microbial Earth fossils is by Ph.D. Ian West: Fossil Forest, Lulworth Cove; Part 1: The Ledge and Strata, Geology of the Wessex Coast of Southern England. The similarities between Earth stromatolites and corresponding Mars objects is striking. I have had discussions with Dr. West. He supports the view that the objects presented in this article as candidates for stromatolites and thrombolites in Mars is correct. When Dr. Small wrote the first version of his book The Living Rocks of Mars, Dr. West kindly gave his valuable feedback to Dr.Small via Harry.

Sol 528 stromatolite or thrombolite? Dr. Ian West has pointed out of Sol 528 object that both the Purbeck thrombolite (on Earth, England) and the Sol 528 thrombolite candidate have radial cracks, which may be result of burial. And if so, then the Martian examples may have been buried and re-excavated by erosional processes. The Purbeck thrombolite image is by Dr.West. Dr.Lyall Winston Small has interesting idea about Opportunity Sol-251 object named Wopmay in [136]: Could stromatolites be living on Mars even today? Note that there is also Blueberries on this object. The name Wopmay relates to history of stromatolite research on Earth. Could Sol 1257 contain microbial mats growing today? Sol 731 thrombolite?

Fig.6.3.Stromatolites, Wopmay. Click here to get high resolution picture.

On 9th of March 2016, Sol 1276, Curiosity arrived to a place which seems to have a lot of objects resembling stromatolites. Curiosity stopped to investigate them and it took large number of images with MAHLI and ChemCam. On Sol 1433 there is similar object.

Fig.6.4.Stromatolites, Sol 1276. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Below are images by Opportunity microscopic imager. Things to consider here are stromatolites, bacterial mats, layers cemented by microbial slime. I recommend visiting the web-site by Canadian scientist Michael Davidson about these: Mars Fossils, Pseudofossils, and Problematica. He made the analysis year 2004 when Spirit and Opportunity had been only few months in Mars. In images A, B, C and D besides the possible stromatolites, the empty voids also have interesting patterns. The 'Martian Rotini' feature in image E caused much debate about possible fossils in Mars.

Fig.6.5.Stromatolites, Opportunity. Click here to get high resolution picture.

See also site about Earth stromatolites by Richard Thieltges: Evolutionary research - Stromatolite Identification Site. Thieltges has the largest collection of Stromatolite fossils in North America. NASA has borrowed his collection to educate the Mars rover scientists. And read: S. Leuko, L. J. Rothschild, B. P. Burns, Halophilic Archaea and the Search for Extinct and Extant Life on Mars and Mark Strauss October 17, 2016: NASA’s Bold Plan to Hunt for Fossils on Mars.


Publications by Science Groups

In 45th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) meeting 17-21.3.2014 in Texas planetary scientists, geologists and astronomers present their latest findings. The 45th LPSC meeting was heavily Mars related. There were over 300 publications concerning Mars. The Curiosity and Opportunity science teams present their latest results. Also science teams which have tested Earth microbes in conditions simulating planet Mars, present their results. See this agenda with links to all the abstracts.

The 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference was in Texas March 16–20, 2015. See abstracts from sessions 253: Exobiology: Prebiotic chemistry to extremophile biology.

The 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference was in Texas March 21–25, 2016. See abstracts from sessions 451: (Is there) Life On Mars? Martian exobiology tools, analogs, and environments, Exobiology session 702 and Exobiology session 603.

Below are short descriptions and also direct quotes of the abstracts of some of the publications in these meetings.

Perchlorate reducing bacteria and the biological potential of Gale crater subsurface

From 47th LPSC meeting:

K. F. Bywaters and R. C. Quinn, 2016: Perchlorate reducing bacteria: Evaluating the potential for growth utilizing nutrient sources identified on Mars..

Direct quote: Our results show that perchlorate-reducing bacteria, which may provide a good analogy for potential life on Mars, are capable of utilizing the nutrients available in martian surface materials.

Related excellent article was published in March 2016:
Joop M. Houtkooper, Dirk Schulze-Makuch: The Possible Role of Perchlorates for Martian Life

The article presents a biochemical model for life on Mars in current conditions of Mars. With the model the atmospheric moisture provides enough liquid water for current surface life down to minus 70 degrees Celsius temperatures, and with sufficient level of water activity. It is good to read the whole article, but here are few direct quotes, about the basic ideas:

An interesting property perchlorate salts share with hydrogen peroxide is their effectiveness as anti-freeze. Whereas the eutectic for H2O-H2O2 freezes at -56 C, the water-magnesium perchlorate eutectic is as low as -70 C.

Why would organisms evolve to include hydrogen peroxide in their intracellular fluid? The physical and chemical properties of H2O2-H2O mixtures would be beneficial for life to cope with a harsh Martian near-surface environment. Any organisms on Mars would have been subject to evolutionary pressures, as the Martian surface became colder, dryer, and subject to higher radiation levels, to develop an adaptation to H2O2, similar to how life on Earth adapted to high concentration of free molecular oxygen about 2.5 billion year ago.

Ambient conditions on Mars are often deemed adverse to the existence of life. Mars is considered to be too cold and too dry, the soil too oxidizing, the atmosphere too thin, the solar radiation containing too much UV and there is much hard radiation from solar and cosmic origin because of the lack of a magnetosphere. However, some Earth organisms show a remarkable resistance to UV and to various types of irradiation, and adaptations to oxidative stresses and irradiation involve many of the same resistance responses in microorganisms.

Mars Odyssey data indicates water on equator areas of Mars. See articles: August 2017: Mars Probe Data Shows The Red Planet Is Hiding Water Where There Shouldn't Be Any and Icarus 2017-07-028, Jack T.Wilson Equatorial locations of water on Mars: Improved resolution maps based on Mars Odyssey Neutron Spectrometer data . Consider following possibility: Martian life may have adopted hydrogen peroxide as intra-cellular fluid, which works as anti-freeze. So Martian microbial life and fungi could bind liquid water at equatorial areas and that would be visible in Mars odyssey data.

B. J. Rodriguez-Colon and E. G. Rivera-Valentín, 2016: Investigating the biological potential of Gale crater’s subsurface..

Direct quote: Our definitions for Special and Uncertain Regions may change with new biological discoveries. Indeed, there exists strong evidence for certain metabolic processes below 255 K, but propagation by DNA replication has not yet been documented. Life as we currently know it may not persist at Gale crater due to the low temperature conditions, but our simulations suggest that liquid water, via deliquescence, with tolerable water activity is possible. This opens new possibilities for martian life.

Z.R. Harrold, E.M. Hausrath, C.L. Bartlett, A.H. Garcia, O. Tschauner, 2016: Bioavailability of mineral-bound iron to a Snow Algae community and implications for life in extreme environments.

Direct quote: Laboratory results show cultures of C. brevispina and the accompanying bacterial consortia are capable of obtaining iron from nontronite. Observations from the field further suggest that iron-bearing minerals are an important source of micronutrients for snow algae-bacterial communities. Future work will probe the mechanisms of iron uptake and role of bacteria-algae interactions.

H. Yano, A. Yamagishi, H. Hashimoto, 2016: The first year operation and initial sample analysis and curation preparation of Tanpopo, the Japanese astrobiology experiment onboard the ISS-JEM-EF.

There is a Japanese astrobiology experiment going on onboar International Space Station. Particles from interstellar space are collected to aero-gel on device named Tanpopo. Later particles will be analysed to test the panspermia theory: Will microbes be found in the aero-gel?

See also related 46th LPSC 2015 article: Wright S. P: Microbial Diversity Analyses of Terrestrial Shocked Basalt and Shocked Basaltic Soil: Implications for Panspermia and Future Exobiology Measurements.

Rock Varnish- Manganese coated rocks

From 45th LPSC meeting:
N.L.Lanza 2014, Manganese trends with depth on rock surfaces in Gale crater, Mars.

Direct quote: Because of the close association between Mn minerals and microbial activity on Earth, Mn-oxides have been suggested as a potential biosignatures for Mars missions [5, 13-14], although Mn-rich coatings may also form abiotically [15-17].

Astrobiologist Barry E.DiGregorio observed from Mars images of Viking landers that many Martian rocks have a dark tone coating similar seen in rocks on Earth. The dark coating in Earth rocks is called rock varnish. In his studies Barry was able to show that this manganese rich coating in Earth rocks is created by micro-organisms which have died on the surface of the rock. See news article about this: Rock varnish may hold clues to life on Mars. And see Barrys original year 2001 publication: B.E.DiGregorio 2001, Rock Varnish As A Habitat For Extant Life On Mars. Below left is year 2006 image by Spirit Mars-rover with dark toned rocks possibly covered by rock varnish. On the right is Caribou target which Curiosity investigated.

Fig.7.1.Rock Varnish.

Curiosity has investigated the rock surfaces on Martian rocks. The results seem to confirm Barrys interpretation that dark toned rocks on Mars are covered by manganese rich coating. And as one option is given that they are produced by microbes, as Barry suggests. Note that this Curiosity team Manganese trends article refers, ref [14], to Barrys publication linked above. See also news 21.3.2014: Bare Earth Elements: Mars rocks wear manganese coats. And read David H. Krinsley, Barry DiGregorio, Ronald I. Dorn, Josh Razink & Robert Fisher, March 2017: Mn-Fe-Enhancing Budding Bacteria in Century-Old Rock Varnish, Erie Barge Canal, New York.

Methanogen microbes in simulated Martian environment

R.L.Mickol and T.A.Kral 2014: Approaching Martian conditions: Methanogen survival at low pressure

Direct quote: Methanogens are ideal organisms for life on Mars because they are anaerobic, do not require organic nutrients, and are non-photosynthetic (they can exist in sub-surface environments). Four separate strains of methanogen (Methanothermobacter wolfeii, Methanosarcina barkeri, Methanobacterium formicicum, Methanococcus maripaludis) were tested for their ability to survive prolonged periods of time under low pressure conditions. These four species were chosen as representives of the Archaea domain. .. Generally, the exposure to low pressure did not hinder the growth (in terms of methane production) of any of the four methanogen strains.

S.Djordjevic 2014: Simulating Martian conditions: Methanogen survivability during freeze-thaw cycles

Direct quote: Methanogens are obligate anaerobes that use molecular hydrogen as an energy source and carbon dioxide as a carbon source to produce methane. They are classified as Archaea and are found in many extreme environments, including hydrothermal vents, volcanoes, and also the human microflora. The current Martian atmosphere is low in pressure, very dry (hyper-arid), and high in radiation, and thus the surface is not suitable for life. However, the subsurface contains permafrost, liquid water [1], and trace amounts of methane [2, 3]. Thus, it is proposed that these Archaea are able to persist in Martian conditions. (End of quote)

The Methanothermobacter wolfeii and Methanobacterium formicicum survived the tests and had even increase in growth. This article also presents temperature measurements by Curiosity during 500 days. Usually the night temperature was around -80 C. But in two cases around Sol 190 and 210 the night temperature was only -5 C. Note: The old official NASA view of dry and hyper arid Mars was completely changed 28.9.2015 [132,133]. Now new NASA view is that it is wet. There is liquid water in soil and moisture in the air.

See also 46th LPSC 2015 article: Sinha N., Kral T. A: Growth of Methanogens on Different Mars Regolith Analogues and Stable Carbon Isotope Fractionation During Methanogenesis

Very interesting test was done by Dr. Vladimir S. Cheptsov and his group in Lomonosov Moscow State University: 100 kGy gamma-affected microbial communities within the ancient Arctic permafrost under simulated Martian conditions . See also news, Universe Today, Matt Williams , November 2017 : Life on Mars can Survive for Millions of Years Even Right Near the Surface . In the simulated Martian conditions tested microbes shoved good resistance to the high radiation levels of Martian surface.

Lichens in simulated Martian environment

J.Jänchen 2014: Impact of UVC exposure on the water retention of the Lichen Buellia Frigida

Direct quote: New results on extremophiles and observations of Mars missions regarding the detailed mineralogy, the occurrence of water in the equatorial region of Mars [1-3], new announcements of MSL findings and their implications for the surface conditions at Gale crater [4, 5] as well as measurements of the Mars surface radiation environment [6] fuel the debate about possible developments of life on Mars. Based on previous studies [7-8] we examined water vapor interaction and water-bearing properties of B. frigida before and after UVC irradiation. The measurements have been partially conducted after simulation of environmental conditions which are supposed to be Mars-like. Lichens are symbiotic organisms that are able to colonize a broad range of extreme habitats and, therefore, represent useful model systems in astrobiological research.... The UVC-treatment improves the ability of physisorption of water by creating extra sorption sites in the mycobiont. The study has to be continued for getting more knowledge into this interesting outcome. (End of quote)

Fig.7.2.Lichens on Earth.

Lichens are symbiotic organisms consisting of fungi combined with algae or cyanobacteria. The Lichen Buellia Frigida lives in rock surfaces in Antarctica. There is close to 20000 species of lichens on Earth.

See also article by Chelsea Gohd, February 12 2017: NASA Discovers an Organism That Can Survive 16 Months in Outer Space. Quote: "Scientists aboard the International Space Station (ISS) recently ran an experiment where they let algae loose into the vacuum of space for a full 16 months. And, surprisingly enough, the simple plants survived the harrowing journey. Despite extreme temperature variations, UV radiation, cosmic radiation, and incredible length of time, the algae were brought back aboard still alive.".
This means that Algae type life would easily survive in Mars.

Biosignatures on Mars

Very good and comprehensive article about this area is Biosignatures on Mars: What, Where, and How? Implications for the Search for Martian Life by PhD. Frances Westall et all, Astrobiology Vol.15. CNRS-OSUC-Centre de Biophysique Moleculaire, Orleans, France.

And read also A.J.Williams 2014: Biogenic iron mineralization at Iron mountain, CA, with implications for detection with the Mars Curiosity rover.
Direct quote: Microbe-mineral interactions and biosignature preservation in oxidized sulfidic ore bodies (gossans) are prime candidates for astrobiological study. Such oxidized iron systems have been proposed as analogs for some Martian environments [1]. Recent studies identified microbial fossils preserved as mineral-coated filaments [2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]. This study documents microbially-mediated mineral biosignatures in hydrous ferric oxide (HFO) and ferric oxyhydroxysulfates (FOHS) in three environments at Iron Mountain, CA. ..... The characterization of mineral filaments as biosignatures provides insight into mineral biosignatures detectable by MSL. Individual filaments are below MAHLI resolution, but sinuous filaments forming mat-like textures are resolvable. With a suite of analyses acquired by the MSL instruments to define the geochemical and mineral environment, those features could be identified on Mars as similar to these filaments on Earth, and potentially biogenic. These features could be preserved in a crystalline hematitebearing ridge on Mt. Sharp, which is on MSL’s expected path [14].

Organic compounds and Phosphate

A.Buch 2014: Impact of the sample preparation on the organic compounds detected on mars at JK and CB.

Direct quote: ... Several peaks have been identified by GCMS analysis of JK and CB as part of SAM background, some of them below the nmol level. Identification of these peaks reveal the presence of several aromatic, chlorinated hydrocarbons (Table 1) and silylated compounds such as water. The most interesting of these compounds are listed in Table 1. The question of the endogenous or exogenous origins of these compounds has to be asked. (End of quote.)

Endogenous substances are those that originate from within an organism, tissue, or cell. JK = John Klein drilling site, CB = Cumberland drilling site. See also Universe Today, Tim Reyes on December 17, 2014: NASA’s Curiosity Rover detects Methane, Organics on Mars.

S.M.Som 2014: Reactive transport modeling of Phosphate mineral dissolution in high-P Martian rock

Direct quote: Phosphate is among the nutrients considered critical for all known life [1-4]. The ion is a component in ATP, DNA, RNA, phospholipid cell membranes and required in numerous fundamental biochemical reactions [5]. Phosphorus, either as phosphate or a more reduced species such as phosphite, is also considered crucial in pre-biotic reactions that may have led to the origin of life on Earth [5-7]. A determining factor for the potential of Mars to develop and maintain life may therefore be the availability of phosphorus. ....Thus, in otherwise habitable environments on Mars, phosphate availability for potential prebiotic and biotic reactions should be comparatively higher than for Earth, a positive implication for the potential of past or present martian life.

According to this article the phosphorous availability of Mars is 5-10 times higher compared to Earth.

Special regions on Mars

D.W.Beaty and J.D.Rummel 2014: Introduction to an updated analysis of planetary protection “Special regions” on Mars.

This article concerns UN Space Treaty of 1967 and the International Council for Science’s Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Planetary Protection Policy. Meaning is to avoid harmful biological contamination between planets. There can be negative consequences of transferring life from one planet to another. There can be unknown consequences from the contact between two life forms. And when studying a new form of life, we must have thoughtfulness and caution. The “special regions” concept is defined in the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy for Mars. These are regions “within which terrestrial organisms are likely to replicate” as well as “any region which is interpreted to have a high potential for the existence of extant martian life.”

The reasons for updating the UN Space Treaty and COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy are recent findings in Mars and laboratory tests performed in Earth.

Concepts of Life in The Contexts of Mars

Another interesting meeting was The Eighth International Conference on Mars, July 2014 Pasadena California. A nice summary of meeting is by Valerie Fox, 8th Mars Report: Martian habitability. Check the Abstacts of session Biosignatures, Habitability, and Preservation and Rover-Scale Geology and Organics. Especially can be highlighted articles:

D.J. Des Marais 2014: Concepts Of Life In The Contexts Of Mars. .
Here is direct quote from this article: Finally, evidence of ancient life should be sought in those environments that have been determined to exhibit a high combined potential for prior habitability and preservation of biosignatures. A biosignature is a substance, structure of pattern that requires a biological origin. Potential biosignatures could be indicated by the following efforts [9]: “....(2) Seek evidence of possibly biogenic physical structures, from microscopic (micronscale) to macroscopic (meter-scale), combining morphological, mineralogical, and chemical information where possible, ...”

Note especially that the point (2) can be re-written in English so that we are allowed to try to find in rover images possible fossils of ancient life of Mars. Biogenic structure is a structure produced by life process.

Dissolution cavities in stones

Barry DiGregorio made a groundbreaking study about dissolution cavities in Martian stones: Barry E. DiGregorio 2002, Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Dissolution cavities in Upper Ordovician sandstones from Lake Ontario: Analogs to vesiculated rocks on Mars?

Dissolution cavities means here the following: An organism dies and gets buried in soil. During time it gets fossilized. Later acidic water can wear out the fossilized organism leaving only the hole left to the stone, a kind of negative fossil. Barry shows in this article that the holes in Martian stones may have formed this way as similar stones holes in Earth. Below is image from Mars by Viking 2, showing a stone with possible dissolution cavities. In Curiosity Sol-514 image, we can think about how the stone would look like if the white parts would be away.

Fig.7.3.Dissolution cavities.

Mars Meteorites

The study of meteorites from Mars has given interesting indications of life on Mars. See Astrobiology Magazine 19 August 2014, about a Mars-meteorite which fell to Nakhla, Egypt, year 1911: Life on Mars? Implications of a newly discovered mineral-rich structure. And the original publication Elias Chatzitheodoridis 2014: A Conspicuous Clay Ovoid in Nakhla: Evidence for Subsurface Hydrothermal Alteration on Mars with Implications for Astrobiology. Elias and his group have investigated an oval shaped structural object(image below) which they found inside this Mars meteorite. It may be an ancient primitive Martian lifeform, which is handled in chapter 4.4 of the study linked above.

Also interesting article is Matt Williamson 2014: Meteorite May Contain Proof of Life on Mars, Researchers Say. In this article Philippe Gillet, director of EPFL’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory, describes the Tissint meteorite which fell on Morocco 2011. This meteorite originated from Mars 700000 years ago, and analysis shows that it contains organic carbon, which is very probable of biological origin in Mars.

Fig.7.4. Mars Meteorites.

One of the well known Mars meteorites is ALH84001, which NASA scientists announced 1996 to contain possible microscopic fossils.

Groundbreaking discoveries of bacteria carried inside meteorites is by NASA Astrobiologist Dr. Richard Hoover, 2011: Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites.

More Science publications

Other interesting articles are:
Lindsay Hays et al.: NASA Astrobiology Strategy 2015

D. Glavin 2014: Origin of Chlorobenzene detected by the Curiosity rover in Yellowknife bay: Evidence for Martian organics in the Sheepbed mudstone?
J. Ronholm 2014: Mineralogical characterization of calcium carbonate polymorphs biologically precipitated during heterotrophic bacterial growth
M. Nachon 2014: Calcium sulfate characterized by chemcam/Curiosity at Gale crater, Mars
R.V.Morris 2014: Chemical composition of crystalline, smectite, and amorphous components for Rocknest soil and John Klein and Cumberland mudstone drill fines using APXS, CHEMIN, and SAM datasets from Gale crater, Mars
Onyilagha,J.C 2014: Further Investigation into the Biosynthetic Pathways of the 20 Standard Amino Acids of the Genetic Code
S.M.Som 2014: An integrative approach to assessing habitability of H2 metabolisms in hydrothermal springs
J. Audouard 2014: Water-equivalent hydrogen content of the Martian surface
J.E. Brandenburg 2014, Meteorite NWA 7533, the Confirmation of the CI-Mars Hypothesis, and The Mars Age Paradox
J.P.Grotzinger, and the MSL Science Team 2014: Habitability, Organic Taphonomy, And The Sedimentary Record Of Mars. .
P. G. Conrad 2014: The Present Habitability Potential of Gale Crater: What We Have Learned So Far From Mars Science Laboratory. .
N.L.Lanza 2014: High Manganese Observations With Chemcam in Gale Crater, MarS.
Jie Wei, Alian Wang 2014: Detecting Biosignatures on Mars: Lessons Learned from Mars Analog Site Studies.
R. Bhartia 2014: Combining Chemistry and Morphology to Assess Biosignature.
R. L. Mickol 2014: Methanogens as Models for Life on Mars.
Scott M. Perl 2014: Experimental Constraints on Martian Aqueous Environments and Biosignature Preservation: Simulating Fluid Flow Profiles and Microbial Development in the Shallow Subsurface.

If You, dear reader of this article, are below 14 years of age, I recommend that you ask your parents to read this whole article first before proceeding. Reason is that you will now see and read things which have never been told in school or in news and it is better that your parents understand this article first.


Fossils on Mars ?

Let's assume that the ancestors of current Martian microbes were born in Mars over 4 billion years ago as Steven Benner proposes. And lets assume that Mars had good conditions for life in beginning of history of Mars as Curiosity science team tells, with lead of John Grotzinger, in 9th of December 2013 publications in Science magazine. Why the evolution would have stopped to level of microbes? Isn't it possible that evolution would have proceeded much further in planet Mars?

Curiosity is moving on ancient sea floor of Mars. Very interesting images can be found on Curiosity's raw image archives: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/. Select Mast camera and search the images (open Full resolution images ):

Sol 186

Mastcam: Right 2013-02-13 07:39:13 UTC (Direct link)
Mastcam: Right 2013-02-13 07:38:27 UTC (Direct link)

Sol 109

Mastcam: Right 2012-11-25 23:09:11 UTC (Direct link)
Mastcam: Right 2012-11-25 23:09:56 UTC (Direct link)

It is reasonable that You go and fetch the original images from Curiosity archive, so that You can see that these pictures are real, not fake. Store the pictures to your computer so that you can zoom them.

Here is combined picture of the above mentioned Curiosity picture, Sol 186, John Klein site:

Fig.8.1.John Klein site, Sol 186, images 0186MR0927120000E1_DXXX and 0186MR0927121000E1_DXXX . Click here to get high resolution picture.

Sol 109:

Fig.8.2. Sol 109.Images 0109MR0684022000E1_DXXX and 0109MR0684021000E1_DXXX . Click here to get high resolution picture. Note that in high resolution picture there may be another same kind of object in upper right corner.

When you look at Curiosity pictures of objects in Sol-186 and Sol-109, You very fast realize that:
"- Here I see animal bones of ancient life".

Pictures are so clear and sharp that is difficult to deny what you see and say:
"- Random processes of nature can produce this kind of shapes to stones".

And when you accept that here are animal fossils on planet Mars, the consequences are remarkable. It means that conditions in Mars have been for very long time good for life to evolve from RNA and DNA to microbes and further to multicellular life like plants and animals.

I understand that this is a bold statement. But on the other hand it is a natural consequence of the evolution in a planet having good conditions for life and microbial life in the beginning.

When did the environment in Mars become worse for life? Currently the timing of geological periods of Mars is not yet fixed as You can read from blogs by Emily Lakdawalla in Planetary Society:

5-12-2013 Mars' chemical history: Phyllosian, Theiikian, Siderikian, oh my
25-10-2013 Noachian, Hesperian, and Amazonian, oh my! - Mars' Geologic Time Scale

In some estimates Mars was habitable maybe only for 300 million years. But a recent study shows that Mars had liquid water on surface just 500 000 years ago: T.de Haas 2015, Earth-like aqueous debris-flow activity on Mars at high orbital obliquity in the last million years. Interesting question also is that how long time evolution needs to develop multicellular life ? In Earth it took about 2 billion years before this transition happened. Given suitable conditions in a planet, can evolution proceed faster? Can the high phosphorus content of Mars, 5-10 times compared to Earth, be one of the key factors? Year 2015 study with Keck, VLT and NASA infrared telescopes of water-deuterium ratio on Mars, shows that Mars had oceans at least for 1.5 billion years, long enough for life to evolve: Universe today: Bob King,March 2015, Mars Loses an Ocean But Gains the Potential for Life.

Instead of Benners theory of life born on Mars the panspermia theory by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe could explain the observations from Mars maybe even better. That would take maybe one billion years or more away from time scale of emergence of life: microbes based on same DNA would be available everywhere in our solar system when planetary bodies cooled enough.

Below is combined picture of Sol 173 and 186 Mast camera pictures. It is located left from Sol-186 picture. In this picture You see also the white objects presented above(white arrows) and more possible pieces of fossils (yellow arrows).

Fig.8.3.John Klein site, Sol 173. Images 0173MR0926138000E1_DXXX, 0173MR0926139000E1_DXXX, 0173MR0926139000E1_DXXX, 0173MR0926100000E1_DXXX, 0186MR0927120000E1_DXXX. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Below is view from place, where sol 186 and 173 pictures(yellow arrows) were taken. Curiosity spent 3 weeks investigating this area, which is named John Klein. From this image it is possible to figure out the scale of the Sol-186 and 173 fossils, if you compare it to Curiosity wheel size. The size of the fossil bones may be 5-10 centimeters. This image is part of famous Curiosity self portray (PIA16763). I have embedded to this image two originals from archive (0177MH0226000019E1_DXXX and 0177MH0226000043E1_DXXX) , for which natural colors are set with Gimp automatic white balancing. The sky is blue.

Fig.8.4.John Klein site.

These same kinds of objects resembling fossils can be found more especially from Curiosity Sol-107 and Sol-109 Mast camera archives. Below is some of them. Sol 173 and 109 images are here again to make comparison easier.

Fig.8.5. Fossils? Sol 107, 109, 173. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Fig.8.6.Fossils? Sol 107, 64. Images 0107MR0682050000E1_DXXX and 0064MR0285069000E1_DXXX . Click here to get high resolution picture.

Fig.8.7.Fossils? Sol 107, 109. Images 0107MR0682042000E1_DXXX, 0109MR0684015000E1_DXXX and 0109MR0684013000E1_DXXX. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Fig.8.8.Fossil? Sol 186. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In case of Sol 303 below, the negative fossils can be considered. Sol 514 has been named as Harrison.

Fig.8.9.Fossils? Click here to get high resolution picture.

In Curiosity Sol-1922 image the possibility for a trace fossil is discussed in article Leonard David, Barry DiGregorio, January 2018: Curiosity Mars Rover Investigates Eye-catching, Odd Features.

Fig.8.10.Trace fossils? Click here to get high resolution picture.


Esperance

Opportunity images of Sol-3230 and Sol-3262 (28.3.2013) of object called Esperance is worth of investigating. Esperance is located at Endeavour crater, in place named Matijevic Hill. Opportunity spent two months investigating Esperance. See NASA article about it: Guy Webster, may 2013: Mars Rover Opportunity Examines Clay Clues in Rock. The elements of Esperance differ from what Opportunity had analyzed in past 9 years. Esperance has more aluminum and silica and less calcium and iron.

Fig.9.1.Esperance. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Esperance is a little strange object.Esperance has quite special symmetric and geometric shapes. I recommend You to study carefully the high resolution picture of Esperance. You will notice several amazing things. See also this analysis of Esperance Chemistry by Opportunity science team: B. C. Clark 2014: Espérance: Extreme aqueous alteration in fracture fills and coatings at Matijevic Hill, Mars. In chapter Astrobiological Significance of the article the litho-bionts are organisms which are growing on rock surfaces, like Fungi and Lichens.

In picture below the 2 gray pictures on left are with Microscopic imager of area in middle of image above right. The image left looks like fossilized plant leave or algae. In the image on middle Opportunity has grinded this object. After grinding there is something like plant stem cut from middle.

Fig.9.2.Esperance, details. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Below is a composition of Microscopic camera images of part of Esperance during 60 days, Sols 3239, 3262, 3264, 3267 and 3298.

Fig.9.3.Esperance, details. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Esperance was investigated a record time, 60 days. The Opportunity principal investigator, Steve Squyres said: Esperance was so important, we committed several weeks to getting this one measurement of it, even though we knew the clock was ticking.


Other interesting objects on Mars

Hollow spheres

Below is more interesting objects. One class of objects is round shells in images A-1..A-12, whatever they may be . A-8 and A-12 stromatolites? A-1 and A-3 are empty. The A-2 and A-5 may still contain something. Looks like the thin shell in A-9 has collapsed. It is notable that these objects concentrate in small area around Sol-395..401, meaning possibly a certain geological timeperiod is exposed here.

Fig.10.1.Shells. Click here to get high resolution picture.

The whole Sol-395 area is interesting. Investigate images 0395MR1626009000E1_DXXX, 0395MR1626016000E1_DXXX, 0395MR1626018000E1_DXXX, 0395MR1626020000E1_DXXX and 0395MR1626023000E1_DXXX. Or see the color corrected versions in Mars Today archive.

Fossil forest?

I classify images T-1 to T-12 below to same class. If Mars had life, was there something like trees? Images T-2 and T3 are of same objects from different angles. Both in T-2 and T-3 there is two objects. The T2, T6, T10 and T11 objects have similar surface textures. The T1 and T3 interior structures have similarities. The T-7 Sol 396 objects have interesting surface texture, which is worth of checking in high resolution image. If T-9 would be a tree fossil, it has about 17 yearly growth rings, meaning it reached age of 17 martian years, which is 32 earth years. Try to run internet image search 'fossil tree' to see that corresponding Earth tree fossils have striking similarities compared to T-1..T-9 objects. Also check Fossil tree web-page by Ph.D. Ian West: The Purbeck Fossil Forest - 2: The Trees . Sol 1101 right corner image: In high resolution image see the repeated pattern on right side of the object and compare it to patterns of T-2 and T-6. Alternative possibility for T-7 and T-8 is thrombolite. The T-12 object, Opportunity Sol 4416, was re-examined closely at Sol 4429 and 4430 (July 2016).

Fig.10.2.Trees? Why Spirit candidate has clear yearly rings, but Curiosity candidates do not? Click here to get high resolution picture.

It has been pointed out by S.Blomqvist(Finland) that on rain forests of Earth at equator, trees do not produce yearly rings. The rings are produced at latitudes where there are seasonal changes: growth period, and resting period. The tilt of Mars's rotational axis is currently 25 degrees. The southern winters on Mars are cold since then Mars is 19% further away from Sun than on southern summer. The location of Spirit Mars rover is 15 degrees south. The location of Curiosity is 5 degrees south. Opportunity is 2 degrees south. So the seasonal changes in Spirit site, Gusev crater, are larger than in Curiosity site, Gale crater. Earlier in history of Mars, the axis tilt may have been larger than 25 degrees( Universe today 2008, Fraser Cain Mars Tilt). This would increase the seasonal effect. Blomqvist has developed methods to perform age measurements of tree samples, based on statistical analysis of the variations in yearly growth rings.

Fossil sea shells?

The Sol 132, 551, 3, 692, 1032, 1280 objects resemble fossilized sea shells.

Fig.10.3.Sea shells? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Fossil insects?

One class of objects with similarities is in images B-1..B-4 (Sol 387, 72, 173): If Mars had life, was there something like insects?

Fig.10.4.Insects? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Cracks and moisture on Walls

In Sol 1104 there may be active process going on. There is a deep crack on the wall. In the crack we see also a white vein. In the middle of the crack there is a large hole. There is a wide light tone color area surrounding the crack. In Sol 1429 we see very similar case. And in addition we see traces of a flow under the cracks (yellow arrows). And the (new?) light tone material is covering the old geological formations. Sol 747: do we see wet sand in middle of the image? Why in images of this area the white veins are in the borders of different color areas? Are the colors here produced with different microbial species divided in areas by veins? The geological layers are horizontal. But the wet looking area, veins and color areas are vertical. Similar case is Sol 1048: Wet stone/sand (A)? Has Curiosity captured in this image active flow of something(B)? There is some similarities in objects in Sol 710, 528 and 529: All located in shadows in a cave like crack. Is there tracks on the sand in Sol 710 image? In Sol 1167 Curiosity has driven over a stone revealing the underground part of the stone: Moisture? Note white objects in underground part.

Fig.10.5. Various objects and wet soil. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In Sol 1459 Curiosity images , Murray Buttes area, there is white material on shadow side walls. They are on top of the old geological formations. In nearby Sol 1489 we see similar formations very close to Curiosity.

Fig.10.5B. White material on the walls. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Underground bugs?

It has been speculated that underground conditions in Mars could be suitable for life forms resembling bugs and worms. The Sol 765 image A has underground soil as result of a sample drilling. Here we see 2 shiny, yellow tone and partly transparent objects. The larger one has symmetric shape. In image D Sol 765, Curiosity created a pile of underground soil. Images B, C, E and F are from the center of this pile during two days. In Sol 767 images B and E there is small shiny objects which are not visible two days earlier, Sol 765 images C and F. In image G, Sol 69 we see also a shiny object which was in underground soil. In Sol-794 image there is a hole on the wall. Under the hole there is a pile of fine grained sand on the ground. The Sol 826 is of same hole one month later. Interesting question to ask here is: Which one was first here: The hole or the vein? You could argue that the vein continues also below the hole, so the hole must have appeared later. In Sol-796 images there seems to be similar cases. In Sol 842 image there is two similar interesting holes in the sand. In embedded Sol 271 image you can compare the holes to holes produced by Curiositys laser.

Fig.10.6. Bugs? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Now i do some wild speculation: Let's assume for a while that the Sol-765 object would really be a Martian bug. Then what does it eat? If the white veins are chemolithiautotrophic microbes then that could be biological material to use as nutrient. And that would be the reason to see holes associated with the white veins. The Martian bugs would be eating their way through the veins. And the bugs would mostly stay underground because there they are protected from radiation and also the night temperature underground is warmer compared to air temperature at night. The bug in Sol-765 would be a dead one because the drill of Curiosity insured it or the higher radiation level on the surface killed it. In Sol-765 MAHLI archive there is images of this object during 10 minutes time. During that time this object has not moved. Another issue to note is this area stones with holes there is same color sand as the stone just around the stones, for example in Sol 842 image 0842MR0037460100500901E01_DXXX. This may mean that the sand has been produced from the stone recently. End of wild speculation.

In these same sand piles there are also other interesting changes during 10 days in images below. Related to changes is maybe following physical processes: The originally wet sand pile is drying and shrinking and wind may move grains. Most of the small stones have remained exactly in same position. Some of the stones are in different position after 10 days. Average wind speed at Gale crater is about 7 meters per second [107]. But if air pressure is so low, how can wind cause enough force to move some of the stones? Is it possible that the air pressure is much higher?

Fig.10.7.Sand piles. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In Sol 853 images below, December 30 2014, there is interesting change during one hour. There may be an object moving. In second row, the Sol-869 (16th of January 2015) first image has been taken in daylight. The second image is during night, with Curiosity’s LED light. The shiny object has changed shape in 5 hours. In night image it covers larger area. Sol 895: Hollow spherule??

Fig.10.8.Bugs? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Another interesting phenomenon (related or not) is visible on the deck of Curiosity on Sol-765 and Sol-1061 (1st of Aug 2015) images. Below we see some sand and dust on the deck. But there is also interesting clean tracks going through the dust. We see some small objects on the other end of some of the tracks. Can small stones moving on the deck cause these? If vibration is causing small stones to move, why does the dust not move and cover the tracks? The stones are probably sliding instead of rolling. There is similar phenomenon on the ground in Sol 1065 MAHLI image.In Sol 1121 image the arrow points to track part where we possibly see daily movement. Could it be that moisture of air freezes to the deck on nighttime. In the morning when temperature raises the deck becomes slippery and the stones slide a small distance? In Sol 1425 we see movement of the object during 3 minutes and 39 seconds. Other stones stand still. But this one slides through thick dust layer. Note that shadows are short, so the Sun is high up, and there should be no more any kind of ice causing movement. The tracks of objects in Sols 765, 1061 and 1425 are smooth. The track of irregular shape object in sol 1121 has more randomnes.

Fig.10.9.Sliding stones(?) on deck of Curiosity? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Dr. Lyall Winston Small has similar observations in his SmugMug Mars image archive [143], close to Phoenix lander 2008. The images below are from Winstons SmugMug site with his permission. Study the Sol 40 and 28 objects and the tracks closely. Compare the tracks to tracks on Curiosity's deck. And the Sol 19 object, which was not there before. ..and think...and check in this Phoenix archive what happens in Martian soil under microscopic camera of Phoenix in Sol 137 and other similar images in the archive.

Fig.10.10. Phoenix site. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Various objects

In this chapter is observations of interesting objects without classification yet. In Sol 812 and 809 we can see interesting patterns in surface. In sol 886 drilling hole walls in same area we see that this pattern is three dimensional and it continues deeper. On Sol 1489 image we see best closeup of thin flat surfaces covering stones. These have been on the walls in some other areas also.

Fig.10.11.Various objects. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Images Z-1 and Z-2 have something similar and exceptional compared to all images taken by Mars rovers. Sol 181 has besides white veins a lot of interesting same size round depressions on the ground of ancient sea floor. Proposal for Sol 65 object origin was that maybe from Curiosity rover itself. Sol 1095 is MAHLI image combination of Sol 1094. The Sol 1087 object is similar in shape and color and is close to 1095 object.

Fig.10.12.Various objects Click here to get high resolution picture.


Interpretation of the Mars rover images

My interpretation of the images presented so far is: Mars has had life and it still has.

The key here is the theory by Steven Benner, that RNA, DNA and life was born in Mars and transported to Earth with meteorites. The life based on same DNA on Earth and Mars would have same origin: Mars. This would explain why we see same kind of animal and plant fossils on Mars as we have on Earth. The publications by science teams linked on this web-page also support the view that Mars is habitable and has had and may have life even today.

Instead of Benners theory of life born on Mars the panspermia theory by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe could explain the observations from Mars maybe even better. That would take maybe one billion years or more away from time scale of birth of life: microbes based on same DNA would be available everywhere in our solar system when planetary bodies cooled enough. The theory by Benner is actually a subset of panspermia theory.

The structural Newberries (Opportunity, Sol 3064) could be fossil remains of plant-life in Mars. How far did evolution proceed in Mars? The animal fossils (Curiosity Sol-186, 107, 109)look like something similar we had on Earth seas before the time of dinosaurs. In Mars today microbial life would still remain (Sol-304). The microbes today can be of type chemolithoautotrophs and methanogens. The Sol-173 white objects which grow in size and the Blueberries resemble fungi.

In the images of this web-page, i count about 20 species of past life and about 16 species of currently living primitive life forms.

Below is summary image for candidates of currently living species on Mars (resembling microbial colonies, lichens and fungi...and possibly small bugs).

Fig.11.1.Candidates for current life on Mars. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Below is summary image for candidates of ancient species on Mars (stromatolites, and multicellular higher life forms, both plants and animals).

Fig.11.2.Candidates for past life on Mars. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Let's assume that this interpretation that Mars has been a planet with seas, thick atmosphere and higher level life would be correct. Then has Mars had oxygen in its atmosphere in past? In Earth plant life, sea planktons and cyanobacteria produced oxygen to the atmosphere. This made possible the evolution of oxygen breathing animals on Earth. When looking at these images of plant and animal fossils at Mars, we could assume that same happened also in Mars. Today of course Mars has only a thin atmosphere having 95 % carbon dioxide and only 0.13 % oxygen.

According to Agnes Cousin of the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, the Couriosity analysis of Mars rock, indicate high manganese oxide content, which is an indication that Mars had high oxygen content in past. See article: New Scientist, 22-4-2016, Andy Coghlan, First direct evidence of ancient Mars’s oxygen-rich atmosphere


Curiosity, Darwin, Vikings and Planetary Protection

Curiosity and Charles Darwin, and writing between the lines

When Curiosity had been few months in Mars, Curiosity principal investigator John Grotzinger announced that they will keep a press meeting about findings. Pre-information was that they will be 'Earth shaking and for the History books'( Universe Today 20.11.2012: Has Curiosity Made an ‘Earth-Shaking’ Discovery?). Week went by and the press meeting came. The scientists were quite quiet. Normal things of Curiosity ongoing mission were told. Looks like at last minute NASA decided not to tell the Earth Shaking news. But in meeting it was mentioned that the conditions in Mars are such that if there is signs of past life, they would be well preserved. Now things have been processed further. We have theory by Steven Benner to explain findings. We know that life, in form of microbes carried by meteorites, survive the trip from Mars to Earth . We have explanation why life on Mars resembles life on Earth.

NASA has been strangely cautious in telling about findings related to possible life on Mars. Some clarification about NASAs policy for publishing news is given by this interview of John Grotzinger, November 2012: Big News From Mars? Rover Scientists Mum For Now. So NASA scientists cannot tell about their findings until they have done a scientific publication, for instance in the Science magazine or in conference like Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). They are not allowed to speak even to family members at home. Rather strange rules by NASA in science world. There should be open and free discussion in science. Just looking at pictures in this web-page it is easy to say that Mars is a planet of past and current life. And that Mars has gone through a long evolution process producing higher forms of life, not just microbes.

NASA gives almost all pictures of Mars-rovers to archives for anybody to see. Curiosity has produced 481000 pictures, Opportunity 226000 and Spirit 128000. Only the amount of pictures, 835000, is huge. And then there is all the science data from instruments. It takes time to analyze all the data and produce science publications.

On 9th of December 2013 Curiosity science teams published 6 remarkable articles in Science magazine. The main message of these articles is that Mars has been habitable. It had good conditions for Life. In these articles it is also told that the chemical analysis instruments onboard Curiosity found organic compounds on the samples. And also life is given as one possible explanation alternative for white veins and nodules discovered by Curiosity. See Science magazine Curiosity web-page: http://www.sciencemag.org/site/extra/curiosity/ and there article New Results Send Mars Rover on a Quest for Ancient Life.

On December 30 2013 the Curiosity principal investigator John Grotzinger wrote a very interesting blog: Habitability, Taphonomy, and Curiosity’s Hunt for Organic Carbon. For first time, in relation to Mars, he discusses fossils and Charles Darwin's evolution theory , which Darwin published in 1859 in his book On the Origin of Species. Taphonomy is the term paleontologists use to describe how organisms become fossilized. John tells also in his blog about the history of science, how it was difficult to prove the evolution theory correct on planet Earth. It took 100 years in scientific community to establish evolution theory.

John Grotzinger explains in 24th of January 2014 Science magazine web-article Habitability, Taphonomy, and the Search for Organic Carbon on Mars that they have certain principles for searching life on Mars. Curiosity has a lot of science and chemical analysis instruments. The analysis results must show that Mars was habitable and had good conditions for life. If analysis would show that conditions for life in Mars were impossible, then there would be a big contradiction to see fossils in the images in Curiosity and Opportunity. The remarkable thing is that in 9.12.2013 publications in Science magazine it is shown that Mars was habitable and had good conditions for life.

Interesting meeting concerning Mars was on 17-21 of March 2014 in Woodlands, Texas: 45th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. In this meeting over 300 articles concerning Mars was published. Detailed analysis result of Curiosity and Opportunity chemistry data was presented. Several studies and laboratory test results of how micro-organisms survive in conditions of planet Mars was presented. In this link you can access all the abstracts. Check also the test results from International Space Station, which showed that microbes survived during 1.5 years test period in extreme conditions of empty space: Space Station Research Shows That Hardy Little Space Travelers Could Colonize Mars.

On 28th of September 2015 NASA held a press conference to announce the confirmation of liquid water on today’s Mars. In the introductory speech of the conference astronaut John Grunsfeld, Science Mission Directorate, says:
We try to answer fundamental questions..are we alone....we send astrobiologists and planetary scientists to Mars....to explore the question is there current life on Mars..
What is remarkable is that the chemistry and low atmospheric pressure of Mars keeps the water liquid in temperature range -70 degrees Celsius to +10 degrees Celsius. That means that at equator of Mars the water mixed in the soil is in liquid state almost all the time. And there is moisture in the air. This gives good conditions for life on present day Mars. So the old official view by NASA that Mars is a dry and lifeless planet is now swept away. The implications for life on Mars and planetary protection were taken up in the conference frequently. The liquid water was identified by investigating Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), which are traces of water flow. There is RSL activity also in Gale Crater close to Curiosity, according to article: Icarus 2015, Colin M. Dundas, Alfred S. McEwen, Slope activity in Gale crater, Mars.

See also articles: Universe Today, by Ken Kremer on September 28, 2015: NASA Discovers Salty Liquid Water Flows Intermittently on Mars Today, Bolstering Chance for Life and NASA, 28.9.2015, NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars. And see 7th of October 2015 blog post Patrick Rowan's Skywatch: Mars has liquid water, could it have life?.

The Vikings 1976 - Evidence for Microbial Life on Mars

The NASA Viking space crafts landed on Mars planet in 1976. These 2 landers carried the first ever instruments to analyze possible existence of life on Mars: Labeled Release (LR) experiment. The LR instrument was designed by Gilbert V. Levin. The principle in LR experiment is that sample containing possible microorganisms, is given radioactive food. If sample contains microorganisms then radioactive gas, which can be observed, is released from the sample. Gilbert and co-investigator Patricia Ann Straat found out from LR data that both Viking landers about 7000 kilometers from each other gave positive result for existence of microbial life in Mars. These results and the test setup have been heavily debated after that. Unfortunately, for some reason, for very long time NASA has tried to disprove the results from LR experiment and state that "Mars is a dead planet". Now seeing the new experimental and visual evidence for life on Mars by Curiosity and Opportunity, it can be concluded that Gilbert and Patricia, with Viking LR data, were the first ones to discover microbial life on another planet, Mars. Achievement worth of Nobel prize.

Barry DiGregorio, Gilbert Levin and Patricia Ann Straat wrote 1997 the astrobiology classic MARS The Living Planet and later 2011 update The Microbes of Mars. Read also: Gilbert V. Levin: Chapter Nine - Life After Viking: The Evidence Mounts, Barry E. DiGregorio: The Viking Labeled Release experiment controversey: Why does it exist and when will it end? and Gilbert V. Levin 2016, Extant Life on Mars: Resolving the Issues.

Fig.12.1.The Vikings.

The Vikings contained 4 main experiments. The LR, GEx and PR which were life detection experiments and Gas chromatograph GCMS. These were tested extensively with samples from Antarctica, Death Valley desert and Moon before sending them to Mars. The LR was the most sensitive. It could detect 10 living bacteria in a sample. The GCMS needed one million microbes in a sample. Only LR could detect life from Antarctica deep ice samples. The GCMS was having problems already at Earth test and it failed frequently in Mars. It was not even sure if samples went inside GCMS. Despite of that NASA has stated that "Vikings did not detect life", since GCMS did not detect organic matter. Curiosity has detected large amounts of organic matter[32, 108]. Dr. Jennifer Eigenbrode from the Curiosity organics team has stated that “organics are all over Mars, all over the surface, and probably through the rock record" . Read Jennifer L. Eigenbrode, et all , Science June 2018: Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars. Also the Phoenix lander 2009 mission results have indicated that even Viking GCMS results show organics on Mars [109]. See also article in Universe Today by Paul Patton, January 6, 2015: Defining Life II: Metabolism and Evolution as clues to Extraterrestrial Life. I quote the article, stating about Viking experiments: ...All three experiments produced what seemed like positive results. However, most scientists rejected this interpretation because the details of many of the results could be explained by supposing that there were chemical oxidizing agents in the soil instead of life, and because Viking failed to detect organic materials in Martian soil. This interpretation, especially for the labeled release experiment, remains controversial to this day and may need to be revisited based on recent findings.

In Mars LR made totally 9 tests with all interesting and clear positive results. The LR experiment contained also a method to verify that results are not caused by chemistry of Mars. A control sample was heated to 160 degrees to kill any living microorganisms. After heating to 160 degrees the sample gave a negative result indicating that microbes had died. The really interesting results came when samples was heated only to 46 and 51 degrees. The 51 degree heating lead to positive result of 10 percent compared to sample without heating. The 46 degree heating gave positive result of 30 percent. This would indicate that the temperature where Martian microbes start to die is around 50 degrees Celsius. Similar results in Earth are got with E.Coli bacteria. One overlooked GEx result was that in the experiment the sample did take in carbon dioxide and oxygen was released. Currently Mars has 0.13 percent oxygen content. Mars leaks this to space so a source generating the oxygen in Mars is needed. All the details about these experiments can be read in MARS The Living Planet [63]. Carl Sagan was going to write a review of the book, but he died before he had change to do it.

The statements of individual prominent scientists about LR experiment result can be checked from article Gilbert V. Levin, Astrobiology 2015: The Curiousness of Curiosity. See also Gilberts analysis of preliminary data from Curiosity: 8 July 2013, SPIE Newsroom: Evidence for microbial life on Mars?. And Universe Today July 22nd 2015 article Mars, where Matt Williams refers to Gilbert's analysis as "The results of the biological experiments on board the Viking landers were inconclusive, but a reanalysis of the Viking data published in 2012 suggested signs of microbial life on Mars.". At the end of same article Matt comments on the images by current Mars rovers and orbiters: "..They have also shown that organic life can and most likely did live on Mars at one time."

See also YouTube videos by Gilbert V.Levin and Barry DiGregorio:
28.8.2015 Dr. Gil Levin - 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention (30 minutes)
3.8.2014 But Wait! We've already Found Life on Mars! (24 minutes)
21.6.2010 Life on Mars Interview with Barry DiGregorio and Dr. Gilbert Levin (9 minutes)
3.9.2010 Gilbert V. Levin commentary on the book MARS: THE LIVING PLANET (8 minutes)

And read an excellent articles based on Gilbert V.Levin's interview by Patrick Rowan(USA), 5th of July 2016: Patrick Rowan's Skywatch: 40 years after Viking landing questions remain about life on Mars and 2nd of August 2016: Patrick Rowan's Skywatch: Is NASA running away from life on Mars?.

On October 1st 2016 Gilbert V. Levin and Patricia Ann Straat published article in Astrobiology: The Case for Extant Life on Mars and Its Possible Detection by the Viking Labeled Release Experiment. Dr.Levin and Dr.Ann Straat, get strong support from Chris McKay, PhD, Senior Editor of Astrobiology and an astrobiologist with NASA Ames Research Center in article: Mary Ann Liebert, Oct 18 2016: Microbial life on Mars: The possibility must be considered conclude researchers in Astrobiology . Gilbert and Patricia conclude in their article a recommendation for future Mars research: We strongly recommend that life-seeking experiments be considered for future missions. These should include the continued search for organic molecules of biological importance (e.g., amino acids, simple carbohydrates, lipids, DNA, protein); the conduct of further metabolic experiments, including a search for chiral preference in metabolism; the close examination of any tantalizing surface features; and perhaps even microscopic examination of martian soil with and without the addition of water or water vapor, reminiscent of the experiments of Antony van Leeuwenhock, who discovered the phenomenon of cryptobiosis approximately 300 years ago (Clegg, 2001).

I like the especially including "the close examination of any tantalizing surface features", which is the main content of my visual study and also the content of studies by Dr. Lyall Winston Small and his friends in MRB.

Curiosity Extended mission 2015-2019

Curiosity Extended mission started in October 2015 and lasts to 2019. UK Space Agency supported (and was ready to fund) a new life detection program proposed by Dr. DiGregorio and Dr.Levin “A search for extant endolithic and hypolithic microbial communities” to be included in extended mission:

July 23 2015 University of Buckingham Astrobiologists Endorsed by UK Space Agency to Look for Life on Mars

The program would use Curiosity's instruments and cameras to detect and study currently living micro-organisms in Mars.
Totally there was 89 proposals submitted and 6 of them selected. This proposal was not selected. However Curiosity team has used this proposal on May 2016. Read: Barry E. DiGregorio: 1st of June 2016: New NASA close-up images of freshly broken open rocks by the Curiosity rover wheels could incidentally verify that the 1976 Viking Mission found microbial life.

Chlorophyll and Fatty Acids observations

Year 2002 Dr.Carol Stoker (NASA Ames Research Center) found in Mars Pathfinder mission 1997 data that two areas close to Pathfinder had the spectral signature of chlorophyll. Read: David Whitehouse, BBC News 2002: Life on Mars hopes raised. Chlorophyll is a biomolecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to absorb energy from light. Chlorophyll is closely related green pigments found in cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae and plants..

Unfortunately these results were not published for a reason, which I handle later in chapter Colors in Mars. Same unfortune happened to Dr. Daniel Glavin about finding molecules like those in all microbiological membranes (fatty acids), in Curiosity results 2015. Read: Paul Rincon , BBC News 2015: Possible fatty acid detected on Mars.

Both chlorophyll and fatty acids are strong bioindicators. And finding them in Mars is consistent with positive results of Viking LR experiment.

Visual Evidence for Life on Mars

In this article I have collected Curiosity and Opportunity images, which in my opinion clearly show visual evidence for past and present life on Mars. In the images we see objects which change shape over time, grow, are not covered by dust, and look like life. And if we think of Steven Benners theory of life born on Mars these images just confirm the theory by Benner or the Panspermia theory.

Fig.12.2. Visual evidence.

In my view the animal fossils (Curiosity Sol-109,Sol-186) and the structural Newberries (Opportunity Sol 3064,Sol 3247) is easy to interpret as past life. The Newberries have internal and external fine structure which is repeated in 2 places far away from each other. It is interesting to see from animal fossils that in Mars evolution has produced 2 eyes for animals as in Earth. Having stereo vision helps to survive in three dimensional world. Was life on Mars only in oceans ? Did it move to land ? Fossil in Sol 109 looks like sea animal. Sol 186 fossil may have certain land like feature.

White objects which change their shape (Sol-173) and the Blueberries may be something like fungi. The Sol-304 object may be stone and minerals eating microbes classified as chemolithoautotrophs. In many places in Mars ground there is white veins with nodules(Sol-192, Sol-270). And from drilling picture of Sol-270 the veins seem to go deep inside ground. For the first time NASA gives as possible explanation for these microbes in article published in Science magazine 9.12.2013: 'A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars'. Fresh results from Curiosity and from laboratory experiments may indicate Methanogen type microbes in martian soil. Whatever species there exists now in Mars, they have got long time to adapt to current conditions of Mars. Microbial life just below the surface and on the surface transforms the landscape of Mars during millions of years. And it is also a force causing erosion. The landscape of Mars is surprisingly fresh looking. And there is very little dust covering the surface, especially when looking the images, which are correctly white balanced. The traces of current microbial life is in practice visible in almost every image taken by Mars rovers.

NASA has stated that Curiosity is not equipped with life detection instruments. And that images prove nothing in Mars (..but on other planets images are very important: Pluto,..). Now when it seems that there is visible life on the surface of Mars i think that both Curiosity and Opportunity are well equipped to detect life. They have excellent cameras. And then all the instruments in addition. If You want to find life, then look for life!, said Dr.Levin in 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention, August 2015.

About natural resources at Mars: If Mars has long history of life, does it have fossil fuels underground? Oil ? Natural gas (=methane)? There is already 2-6 percent of water mixed in the ground so manned missions do not have to bring water from Earth. Interesting article 11.12.2013 in Universe Today about liquid water on Mars equator is this: Is There Martian Salty Water At The Red Planet’s Equator? These Lines May Be The Smoking Gun.

In Sol 17 image by Opportunity we see that the Blueberries color the landscape with dark blue tone. In chapter Blueberries we saw that one option for Blueberries is Martian fungi. From the orbit of Mars we see large dark areas, like Sinus Meridiani. And Opportunity is located in a dark area. Could it be that Blueberries, possibly a living thing, is the reason for large dark areas of Mars? If so the dark areas would indicate directly where the largest liquid water resources are on Mars. There are seasonal changes in the dark areas of Mars. The dark areas are largest when there is spring and summer and the melted polar ice cap has released lots of moisture to the air. Next time, when you take your telescope and point it to Mars, and You see those dark areas on Mars, you may wonder: "Do I see now Blueberry fields, extraterrestrial life, with my own eyes?"

Fig.12.3.Blueberry fields.

Excellent, freely readable, observations about life on Mars is by Dr. Lyall Winston Small, September 2015 book: On Debris Flows and Mineral Veins - Where surface life resides on Mars and 2012 book In search of life on Mars. And 2015 book The Living Rocks of Mars

Planetary Protection and Ethics

Is it wise to make missions to bring samples of Mars to Earth? Or at first make manned missions with return tickets ? Can Martian microbes harm life on Earth if they are released from laboratory by accident ? Martian Microbes, Viruses and Bacteria can be pathogens, for which we humans and other life forms on Earth have no resistance. These questions lead us to subject of planetary protection, which was promoted already in 1973 by well-known scientist Carl Sagan. When Columbus discovered America, largest part (90%) of Indian population were killed by diseases carried by Europeans. If we go to Mars, can our microbes cause harm to current Mars life ? The Russian (Soviet Union back then) Mars2 crashed and Mars3 landed to Martian surface in 1971. At that time Russia did not care about international COSPAR spacecraft sterilization agreements [63]. Read more about these issues at International Committee Against Mars Sample Return , led by astrobiologist Barry E.DiGregorio.

Fig.12.4.Planetary Protection.

It is possible that the current Martian life forms could radically change the biology on Earth. They could even cause mass extinctions for species on Earth, including us humans. Now we should postpone the planned manned missions to Mars. Instead we should first carefully investigate the biological properties of Martian life forms. We could establish a test laboratory in the orbit of Mars or in the Moon. In laboratory we could test what happens when life-forms of Mars and Earth get into contact. Because of new findings from Mars, in March 2014 it has been proposed that the rules concerning Special Regions on Mars should be updated: D.W.Beaty, J.D.Rummel 2014: Introduction to an updated analysis of planetary protection “Special regions” on Mars. Despite of all the tremendous risks for Life on Earth, NASA is planning for a Mars sample return with its Mars 2020 mission which will collect the samples for later returning them to Earth. NASA must be fully aware of the risks. The official view of NASA has been for a long time "There is no proof for life on Mars, so there are no risks".

You could argue that risk is small because microbial exchange with meteors has been going on all the time between Earth and Mars. But when was the last major exchange? When dinosaurs died on Earth? We should be cautious. Think about how microbes like Ebola can change just in few decades in Earth. And then think about risk of taking one million microbes with maybe 1000 new types of viruses and bacteria with unknown properties from Mars to Earth. The risk for failure in returning them safely to laboratory in Earth may be as high as 30 percent. Instead we may accidentally spread Martian microbes in Earth’s atmosphere, sea or soil and then they start to multiply. Our technology for making safe entry from space to surface of Earth is not mature enough yet.The NASA Genesis sample return mission crashed on Utah 2004 as the parachute did not open, spreading the samples on the desert.

When considering possible risk of Martian microbes to the Earth, it is often stated that Martian microbes would not survive the higher temperature of the Earth. That statement may be completely wrong. The average temperature of Mars is low. But during the day at equator of Mars, the soil temperature can be several hours + 36 degrees Celsius. So the Martian microbes survive large daily temperature variations of -80 C to +36 C. So they would survive well in most environments on the Earth. And the conditions at Earth could be actually excellent for Martian microbes to start aggressive expansion on Earth biosphere. The fast adaptivity of bacteria to changing environments can be read from: Science Alert Oct 2017, Fiona MacDonald: One of The Biggest Evolution Experiments Ever Has Followed 68,000 Generations of Bacteria.

Between Permian and Triassic period 250 million years ago life on Earth experienced severe mass extinction. Close to 70 percent of terrestrial animal and plant life and 96 percent of sea life died on Earth. It took 10 million years for Earth life to recover with new species emerging. Recent studies have suggested that new type of methanogen bacteria and sulfur interacting bacteria changing the biosphere of the Earth may have played main role in that catastrophic event (See wikipedia: Permian–Triassic extinction event). Can we allow NASA to take the risk of bringing Martian microbes with unknown properties directly to Earth?

NASA, Mars One company and SpaceX company are aiming to send first humans to Mars in 2020-2030 decades. The first astronauts in Mars can not avoid the contact with Martian viruses and bacteria. This may shorten their expected lifetime in Mars dramatically. The biological waste produced by humans is spread into Martian soil. Our Earth microbes will start to spread on Mars, changing the current ecosystem of Mars. It can be questioned how ethical this is? Do we have the right to replace or mix the current life on Mars, with life from Earth? NASA management and SpaceX can keep their current plans of conquering Mars without ethical problems only by keep on claiming that there is no life on Mars. The two way traffic planned by SpaxeX owner billionare Elon Musk will certainly mix the life forms between Earth and Mars. How it is possible that Musk is allowed to break all the COSPAR Planetary Protection rules? Wake up Elon Musk!

According to international law, UN Space Treaty: United Nations Treaties and Principles on Outer Space(2002 Update) and the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy (2011 Update) NASA and SpaceX are not allowed decide themselves about Mars sample return or sending people to another planet having its own life. These issues must be handled in United Nations. Of course it is a problem that NASA and SpaceX have already spent billions of dollars for planned Mars missions, which now should be modified. Also the political leadership of USA has accepted the NASA manned Mars missions [111]. Currently NASA management acts against UN Space Treaty, Part one, Section E, Article 5, Clause 3:

In carrying out activities under this Agreement, States Parties shall promptly inform the Secretary-General, as well as the public and the international scientific community, of any phenomena they discover in outer space, including the Moon, which could endanger human life or health, as well as of any indication of organic life.

Interesting and comprehensive article about planetary protection is the one linked below, year 2016. Dr. John D. Rummel was NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer until 2006. He has chaired COSPAR’s Panel on Planetary Protection since 1999. Dr. Catharine A. Conley has been NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer during 2006-2017. Dr. Margaret S. Race works for SETI institute, in field of planetary protection, especially Earth and Mars.

Mission to Mars: The Integration of Planetary Protection Requirements and Medical Support, 2016 by
John D. Rummel, Ph.D, Institute for Coastal Science and Policy, East Carolina University
Margaret S. Race, Ph.D, SETI Institute
Catharine A. Conley, Ph.D, NASA Science Mission Directorate
David R. Liskowsky, Ph.D, NASA Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer

Does this article by Rummel, Race, Conley and Liskowsky show a change towards a more strict handling of planetary protection issues in coming Mars missions? I hope so. On January 2018 Lisa M. Pratt was appointed as new planetary protection officer of NASA. The Planetary Protection issues in European Space Agency(ESA) are taken care of by Planetary Protection officer Gerhard Kminek. See article: Scientific American, November 30, 2016: NASA Outlines Planetary Protection Priorities. And see 2015 workshop report by M.Race, J.Johnson, J.Spry, B.Siegel and C.Conley: Planetary Protection Knowledge Gaps for Human Extraterrestrial Missions . Also J.D.Rummel participated the workshop. The planetary protection officers Conley and Kminek, hopefully do good work in this matter. See also comprehensive article by Robert Walker, March 2016: Can We Risk Microbes From Human Crashes - On Mars? If Not, What Happens To Dreams To Colonize The Planet?. And read article by Dr. Kelly Smith, May 2016: Do no harm to life on Mars? Ethical limits of Prime Directive. Dr. Kelly Smith is Professor of Philosophy & Biological Sciences in Clemson University. He organizes conference series Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology.

Funded by European Comission there is EURO-CARES project , which is planning to build facilities for astromaterials potentially containing extraterrestrial life. Samples from Mars would be stored there. It is worrying to see this kind of preparations. See related article , Neel V. Patel November 17, 2016 Inverse: Alien Lifeforms Will Have an Apartment in Europe.

Changing planet Mars back to habitable planet for mankind (Terraforming) has been studied for a long time. A good article about this is by Christopher P. McKay, 2007: Planetary Ecosynthesis on Mars: Restoration Ecology and Environmental Ethics. According to the report Mars can warmed up with super-greenhouse gases in 100 years. Producing breathable oxygen atmosphere with microbes and plants would take from few thousands of years to 100000 years. McKay has also great thoughts about ethics and what to do in case we find life on Mars. McKay is working in Curiosity Science team.

Fig.12.5. Terraforming.

It is possible that even the planet Mars is not the origin of life in our Solar System. It is possible that our solar system received the original seed of Life carried by meteorites, from some other nearby stars having life on its planets. The original term for this theory is panspermia. This kind of idea was presented for first time by creek philosopher Anaksagoras 500 BC. Modern versions of panspermia have been developed by Svante Arrhenius, Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe. Chandra is the director of Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology (BCAB). Interesting articles about panspermia are W.M.Napier and N.C.Wickramasinghe 2010: Mechanisms for Panspermia and Rhawn Joseph and Rudolf Schild 2010: Origins, Evolution, and Distribution of Life in the Cosmos: Panspermia, Genetics, Microbes, and Viral Visitors From the Stars. One more interesting article is Rhawn Joseph 2014: Life on Mars? Evidence for Moisture, Algae, Fungi, and Lichens on the Red Planet?. Read also article by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, May 7, 2016: Evidence of life outside the Earth. In this article Professor Wickramasinghe gives a good view to current situation concerning extraterrestrial life.

In September 2015 the research result about life on early Earth was published:
Elizabeth A. Bella, 2015: Potentially biogenic carbon preserved in a 4.1 billion-year-old zircon and
UCLA Newsroom October 19 2015: Life on Earth likely started at least 4.1 billion years ago — much earlier than scientists had thought According to this research life started very soon on Earth. And Earth may have been much cooler in the beginning as we have thought. This report and the observations from Mars both point to direction of panspermia theory. Seeds of life, microbes, were available already in the beginning when our solar system was born. And think about the consequences if panspermia is correct. The mechanism of panspermia has not vanished anywhere. That would mean that interstellar microbes are arriving to the atmosphere of Earth even today. That is an issue which could be observed and which probably has been observed in high altitude sampling experiments by BCAB scientists, read: Milton Wainwright, N Chandra Wickramasinghe, Christopher E Rose, Alexander J Baker 2014, Recovery of Cometary Microorganisms from the Stratosphere. There is also Japanese Tanpopo astrobiology experiment going on onboard International Space Station, trying to observe interplanetary microbes.

The discoveries by Curiosity and Opportunity are changing our view of the Universe. They belong to same series as "Earth is round" and "Earth goes around the Sun". They lead us to answer the question "Are we alone ?". Our Milky Way galaxy may have 100 billion planets in zone of life around their stars. In our solar system we have Earth and Mars in zone of life. And the ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa is also very interesting, as well as the Saturn's moons Enceladus and Titan.

Fig.12.6. Europa, Enceladus and Titan.

Previously it was thought that the birth of life is extremely difficult and we may be totally alone in whole universe. In 1960s the Drake equation was developed, and then estimate was that we may have 10 civilizations in our galaxy. In 2012 Claudio Maccone made estimate 4590 civilizations, and the closest one could be at 2700 light years distance. After finding life on Mars, and realizing how meteorites may carry life over vast distances, what will be the next estimate for the amount of civilizations?

After reading this article You may have a worry, that can Earth lose major part of its atmosphere as Mars did, especially because of climate change ? Answer is: No. The diameter of Mars is half of Earth's diameter and the gravity is much smaller on Mars (38% of the Earth gravity). Most probably Mars gradually leaked its atmosphere to space because of low gravity, lack of magnetic field and the solar wind. The gravity of Earth is stronger to keep our atmosphere and Earths magnetic field protects atmosphere from solar wind. Another thing is what happens to Earth after one billion years, when our Sun enters next development phase. MAVEN spacecraft by NASA entered Mars orbit in September 2014 to find out more about the reason why Mars lost its atmosphere.

Image 12.7. Maven results. Distribution of atomic carbon, oxygen and hydrogen around Mars. Clouds of Mars in ultraviolet light.


More Observations

In this web page I have presented about 500 images. In my own archive of interesting rover images i have about 4000 images. In this appendix I briefly present more interesting issues.

Images from the orbit of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) by NASA has been in orbit of Mars since 2006. It is also used as radio link for Curiosity. MRO has a high resolution camera HiRISE = High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, which can image surface of Mars with 30 centimeters resolution. With the ESP and PSP archive identity number you can get the original high resolution image with an internet search like “hirise PSP_010854_1325”. In the Newton crater we see active flow of liquid salty water. They have been named Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL). This image is a reprojection of HiRISE images taken May 30, 2011. In another RSL image in middle, left, the black areas first appear as dark and then during time they get a lighter white color tone.

Under surface of Mars there is some dark material. In high latitudes, during the spring, the melting carbon dioxide ice is moving the dark material to surface. The Gusev crater is near the equator. In Earth sulfate-reducing bacteria produce black color metal sulfides. One interesting form of life to consider as a model for life on Mars is Snow Algae , which on Earth lives in cold environments.

Fig.13.1.Images from the orbit. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In first row there are Hubble Space Telescope image from years 2005 and 2016 and image by Indias Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) from 2014 and 2015. In left side MOM image the dark area below the center is Sinus Meridiani and the dark area on right from center is Syrtis Major. There is interesting round cloud formation marked with letter "P" in MOM image. The Yellow-Greenish color tones in Martian landscape are interesting in right side image, which shows also one of the Moons of Mars, Phobos. The Elysium image by Viking Orbiter is example of dark areas which can appear on Mars, without any dust storms affecting them [63]. The Elysium dark area is at equator, latitude range 0 to 30 degrees, longitude range -180 to -135 degrees. Copyright for the MOM images is by ISRO/MOM/India.

Fig.13.2.Images from the orbit. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Ice, Water and Moisture

Curiosity measured that Martian soil contains 2-6 percent water and the water is in liquid state in temperature range -70..+10 degrees Celsius in Mars [132,133]. From time to time Curiosity comes to areas where there are like fresh looking flow traces on the ground, like in this Sol 389 and 661 image. Can these traces be produced by water or ice which is mixed in the soil and the soil is freezing and melting periodically ? In Sol 387 image there seems to be a hole in the ground. Has something flown in or out here? Fluid or gas ?

Fig.13.3. Traces.Click here to get high resolution picture.

Similar case is in this Sol 538 Front Hazard Avoidance Camera image 2014-02-10 00:35:32 UTC. Also interesting image to study is 0580MR0024071220400117E01_DXXX.

In Sol-529 below the sand is attached to Curiosity wheels. Reason: moisture on sand? In Sol 1168 image Curiosity has driven over stones. Stones have pushed soil into mud resembling formations. Some stones are broken in places where veins have weaken the stone, revealing white vein interior.

Fig.13.4.Wet soil? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Below is a hole on the ground at John Klein site. The left image is in Sol-183 and the right image is 88 Mars days later, Sol-271. The yellow arrow on Sol-271 image points to a vein and nodule, which is not visible in Sol-183 image. In Sol-271 image, above the hole there is a series of small holes done with Curiosity laser. The laser vaporizes the sand and ChemCamera analyses the chemistry of the vapor.The Sol 589 shows a distant bright flash in Left navigation camera image. One proposal for it is cosmic ray hitting the camera sensor, since the Right navigation camera image does not have this flash. But are the left and right camera images taken exactly the same time? Another proposal has been an underground methane eruption, and the ignition mechanism and source for oxygen is proposed in reference [142].

Fig.13.5.Hole on John Klein site.Click here to get high resolution picture.

General impression is that the Martian soil has moisture. You can observe this also visually from John Klein site drilling hole images and from Sol-69 ‘shiny object’ image and from images where sand is attached to Curiosity wheels, like in this Sol-529 image.

Wheels and Deck of Curiosity and bio-corrosion

Curiosity's aluminum wheels have suffered quite much damages on its journey. You can read about it in this Universe Today article: Ken Kremer, December 26, 2013: Rough Red Planet Rocks Rip Rover Curiosity Wheels . Do we see below some white material in interior of this middle right side wheel ? Is it just reflection of light ? Ice ? Fungi? From Sol 591 image , where sunlight comes better to the wheel interior, it could be concluded that this is just reflection of light. But from other images it is more difficult to make that conclusion. In Sol 521 there is also red sand inside the wheel.In Sol-177 image the wheel is still very clean. In upper row images i have enhanced dark areas brighter. In second row there is no enhancement. Could it be that moisture freezes to interior of wheels and there comes a layer of ice ? And in Sol-591 image where sunlight hits the interior of wheel, the ice has melted away ?

Fig.13.6.Wheels of Curiosity. Click here to get high resolution picture.

One thing to consider for possible future manned missions is: If Mars has wide spread chemolithoautotrophic microbes, then what kind of construction materials should be selected for human settlements? Materials should be such that Martian microbes do not like them. The aluminum, which is used in Curiosity's wheels and which is an ingredient in clay minerals, may not be the best choice. The possibility of bio-corrosion( Biodeterioration) for Mars rovers is handled in article: Rhawn Joseph (assisted by Harry Rabb), December 2016: Contamination and Damage to the Mars Rovers by Martian Fungi and Bacteria. The microbiological problems and bio-corrosion in space is handled also in article by Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences doctors Natalia D. Novikova, Elena A. Deshevaya and Svetlana V. Poddubko, April 2016: Long-term spaceflight and microbiological safety issues.

On the image series below we may see microbial colonies growing on the deck of Curiosity. And if so there are two alternatives. Either they are Martian microbes or Microbes from Earth. The latter alternative is worse, since it would mean that Curiosity is currently contaminating Mars with Earth microbes. If these are microbial colonies then we see that the daily amount on UV radiation, cosmic radiation and temperature variations on the surface of Mars does not harm them. And water would be provided by evening and morning moisture from air. My own guess is that these would be Martian microbes. On top row is the 150-micrometer sieve in robotic arm CHIMRA instrument used sieve particles from samples.

Fig.13.7.Microbes on deck of Curiosity and Opportunity? Click here to get high resolution picture.

Similar observations to image above is also from deck of Opportunity and Spirit by Dr.Small in [143]. Example of such is Sol 2813 image above from deck of Opportunity: Dark blue stains.

In image below we can investigate changes on the deck of Opportunity rover during 12 years. On Sol 3 and 13 images the deck is clean with bright colors, and dark solar panels. 12 years later, december 2016, we see that generally the deck has same blue tone as the in many places in Mars, especially in blueberry areas. On right side instrument base(white ring) we may see physical damage, possibly caused by thermal expansion (?).

Figure 13.8. Changes on the deck of Opportunity rover during 12 years.

There is one more interesting, most probably physical, phenomenon in Sol 720 MAHLI archive black and white images. About this phenomenon I am not sure if it is real or not. So far I think it is not caused by cosmic rays hitting the camera censor. The images are taken when morning sun is low. So sun lights up any possible particles in the thin air and the ground provides a dark background. The images have 1 to 6 pixel bright grains. When You browse the images one after another, it looks like the grains are slowly floating in the air. Dust grains? Example series is 0720ML0030640000304930D01_DXXX, 0720ML0030640010304931D01_DXXX, 0720ML0030640020304932D01_DXXX. But how could the floating be possible if the air pressure is so low?

Astropaleontology

One definition of Astropaleontology (or Astropaleobiology) is by Sherry L. Cady (Portland State University, USA), Malcolm R. Walter (Macquarie University, Australia) and David J. Des Marais (NASA Ames Research Center, USA) in their article: Astropaleobiology in the 21st Century.

Fossil at John Klein site, Sol-186

The finding of objects resembling animal fossils in images of Mars rovers is a difficult thing. It is unbelievable, unexpected and even mind shaking discovery. Most scientists do not want to discuss about them and also NASA has been mostly silent about them or completely denied their existence. However off the record there has been discussions where these fossils are not completely ruled out. One good almost 'off the record' interview of John Grotzinger and Cristopher McKay by NBC News is James Oberg 2004: Avoiding the 'F Word' on Mars. . This is from year 2004 when Opportunity and Spirit had been in Mars only two months. In this interview McKay takes up the possible faster pathway for multicellular life on Mars. And in this NASA July 2014 publication we see a change in the attitude: D.J. Des Marais,NASA Ames Research Center 2014: Concepts Of Life In The Contexts Of Mars.

I think it is a mistake to ignore the fossils in Curiosity images. They can be the strongest proof for life on Mars. And they are extremely interesting to study. It is incredible to see that if life on Earth and Mars are based on same DNA, that the evolution process has had same kind of tracks on both planets, producing same kind of creatures. This has also philosophical consequences concerning what kind of life there may be in exoplanets in our Milky Way galaxy, especially if we assume that DNA molecule is the basis of life everywhere in the Universe. For researchers who have approached the extraterrestrial life from theoretical point of view, based on current knowledge of biochemistry and probabilities, it is difficult to accept these observations of fossils of complex multicellular life. For kids and common people the visual identification of these objects and accepting them is easy and strait forward.

Instead of ignoring and hiding the fossils I now do the opposite. I try to describe and analyze the fossil bones of John Klein images in Sol 173 and 186 in more detail. The fossil in Sol-109 image was one complete creature with all pieces in logical places( description in next chapter). But the bones in John Klein site are scattered around and looks like they do not directly fit together.

Fig.14.1.Fossils at John Klein site? Click here to get high resolution picture.

In figure below are the bones of John Klein site in images from A to L. The first 2 rows from A to G, I consider to be clearly bones. The last row from H to L are more unclear, with L being the most unclear. It may be that the bones here are not from one animal, but instead bones from several species.It may be that if we could dig the ground here we would find more bones fitting together.

The bone A has a complex structure, and for me it is the most convincing object to interpret as a fossil bone. It has such a complex structure that I cannot imagine how non-biological process could create this kind of structure to a stone. There is images A-1 and A-2 of this object, with different direction of Sun light.

The bone B (B-1, B-2 and B-3) could be part of a head. Does it have 2 eyeholes? Note that in figure B-1 and B-2, left side there is a spiral shaped piece, which looks like it has dropped off from the skull piece. A horn? For what does a sea animal need a spiral shaped horn? In Earth some land animals have spiral shaped horns. Also observe that the surface of this B object has aligned lines from up to down. This is the only object having this kind of aligned surface lines among several thousands of rover images which I have gone through. I get the impression that this piece is not only the bone but maybe it has even the surface skin as fossilized. The B object is also very symmetric.


Figure 14.2A. Fossil details. Click here to get high resolution picture.

The C bone has hollow channel inside as the bones of Earth creatures have (bone marrow). The C bone is also very symmetric. It resembles a piece of backbone. Does bone C have two aligned scratches on its surface ? In Earth fossils aligned scratches on a bone can be interpreted so that the animal has been killed by a predator. And in that kind of cases the bones of the eaten creature may be scattered around (See Scientific American, Summer 2014 Special Issue Dinosaurs!, article by Raymond R.Rogers, David D.Crause: A 70-milloin Year-old Murder Mystery.). The D-1 D-2 bone is also very symmetric. And in middle of it there is structure. Hollow bone marrow filled with debris ? The bone E is also symmetric, but looks like erosion has caused some destruction to it. The bone F has very interesting symmetric structure with large thin surface area on the right side.

The object G is such that if I would see this alone I would not recognize it as a bone. But because it is very close to other clear bones, and it has same color, it is easy to state that it is a bone. Note that in bone G, upper part there may be a white fungi-like object growing (at start phase ?) as we saw in beginning of this page, sol-173 white object.The object H has symmetry axis, but is not so clear.


Figure 14.2B. Fossil details. Click here to get high resolution picture. The objects I, J and K are close to clear bones and color is same. The object L has a symmetry axis, but I consider this as most unclear.


Figure 14.2C. Fossil details. Click here to get high resolution picture.

In the first paragraph of this chapter I mentioned that it is even mind shaking to find fossils on Mars. The reason is: We see that Mars, once beautiful Earth like planet full of life has lost everything. Question arises: Will this happen to Earth? I handle this issue more in Appendix D: Fermi paradox.

Fossil at Sol-109 and Sol-107

Description of the creature A in Sol-109 images. The A1 is the skull piece. It has a clear symmetry plane. There is eyeholes, and at bottom of the holes there is small holes. Channels from eye to brains as Earth creatures have? The pieces from A2 to A7 are neck bones (cervical vertebrae). They are aligned and have a symmetry plane, which is especially clear in A2-A3 bone. The A5 bone seems to be turned into sideways. The formations A8 and A9 may belong to this creature, and if so may relate to food collection. The A10 and A11 pieces are the torso of the creature, also showing symmetry plane, which is clearer at A10 position. If A12 is part of this creature it could be a limb. The object C1 is more unclear. It is close to creature A. The C1 could be same kind of creature than A, but seen from behind.

The D creature has mainly the skull piece left. This creature is of different species than creature A. The D1 and D2 are eyeholes. The holes D3 and D4 are in the position where Earth creatures have holes related to breathing. The D5 piece is interesting arch going upwards in the face. The D7 and D8 look like arch shaped bones close to this creature.

The creature E may be of same species as creature D. The skull piece E is heavily eroded. Interestingly there seem to be the white material, which we have seen before, at the bottom of eyeholes. Or alternatively do we see background objects trough the holes?

Fig.14.3.Sol 107 and 109 fossils. Click here to get high resolution picture.

When images of Sol-109 creature A came to archive, then wild rumors started to spread in internet about it. When NASA observed it, NASA removed the images of creature A from the archive. But because the images were already circulating in web NASA decided to put the Sol 109 images back to archive. Do all Curiosity and Opportunity images go now to archive without pre censorship? There are a lot of gaps in rover image archives.

Another fossil at Sol-186

For this case we would really need an expert on paleontology, researcher of fossils. The image below is very sharp with a lot of details. A1 Head. Compare this to images of earth fossil heads. A2 and A3 Neck. A4 Torso. Note that it easy to set a symmetry plane for this A4 part. There is another small object B in this image. B1 Head. B2 torso. This fossil is just few meters from the first Sol 186 fossil case presented above.

Fig.14.4.Sol 186 fossils. Click here to get high resolution picture.

Colors in Mars

We humans have color vision. It is important for us for example to identify different living species of plant life and animal life. If we would have only black and white vision the identification of living things in our environment would be more difficult. The images in Opportunity and Spirit archives contain series of images taken in Red, Green and Blue color filters. From those it is possible for anybody to produce natural color images for example with freely available ImageJ software. The images in Curiosity archive contain only all dusty appearance color images produced by NASA imaging team. The Curiosity images can be converted to natural color with Gimp software automatic white balance adjustment.

You may have noted about Pinnacle Island that in one image the center is green and in another it is red. And in the image with green center the ground has plain red color with less detail visible than in image with red center. Why? Which one has the correct colors? Related to this is a sad story from NASA Viking mission. You can read the full story from book MARS The Living Planet [63], starting from page 140.

Fig.15.1.Colors.
When first Viking color image was received from Mars in 1976 there was beautiful blue sky and wide range of colors in the landscape. The cameras had been well calibrated before landing on Mars. Two hours after reception of first color image the Chief of NASA James C. Fletcher, the NASA Administrator, called the Viking imaging team members and commanded them to destroy the image with blue sky and replace it with a color scheme where the sky is red and colors on landscape are dull reddish with less details visible. The scientists were shocked to see this happening. Because of physical phenomena of Rayleigh scattering the sky of Mars is really blue as in Earth. Why did NASA management do this?

This falsified color schemes have been used systematically at least until 1996 and even today. The Opportunity science teams talked about red center of Pinnacle Island, so the image with green center was published with the old color scheme obviously by accident. And this happened year 2014! On right side are images by Opportunity, Sol 17 year 2004 (archive identity PIA05588). Images are about Blueberries, which are really blue in color. And in upper image PIA05588-br2 we see that the landscape is blue because of the blueberries. Also the sky is blue as it should be. However NASA says this is a 'false color' image. And for the image version with dull reddish tone with red sky and red tone blueberries they say it to be "approximate true color" image. In Curiosity Sol 538 NASA says upper image is white balanced as it would be under light conditions of Earth sky and second row image with Martian light conditions. The Curiosity camera calibration target has bright and clear colors on Earth. But in Sol 3 image at Mars the colors are something else. All 450000 Curiosity images in archive are according to second row colors. Why?

Opportunity investigated the Pinnacle Island for 4 weeks and then NASA gave a press release that it is just a rock. As you can see in the images of Pinnacle Island in this web page the NASA press release is complete nonsense. I see that NASA just bought time to do some more work before announcing the discovery of life in Mars. But hopefully they do it sooner than later. NASA has done same kind of nonsense press releases for several other clearly lifelike objects, like Curiosity Sol-304 object. They never consider life as an option in the press releases.


Fig.15.2.Colors, Curiosity 2016. Note also that in the MRO HiRISE image, targeted on Curiosity, the colors match the upper row.

Also a sad thing is that starting from mid 1960s the reviewers of respected Science magazine have made very difficult the publishing of articles where positive result for life on Mars is presented. The Life on Mars issue is far from pure science; there is a lot of religious beliefs, politics and dirty games involved. I quote the book MARS The Living Planet[63], page 97. In meeting concerning Space Biology in 1961, which also Dr. Gilbert V.Levin participated, the Editor of Science magazine Phil Abelson says:

“Let’s get out of here, this is talking about looking for life on the other planets! The Bible tells us there cannot be any life on other planets - this is a waste of time!”.

Later Abelson rejected two scientific papers by Dr.Levin on the possibility of having detected life on Mars. What has changed until year 2014? To get publication in Science magazine you have to prefer all the abiotic hypothesis as first alternative and for clear and sense making biological explanation say "..we include this only for the sake of completeness."? [17, Grotzinger]

Science and religion do not have to contradict each other as you can read from the statement about Big Bang and Evolution by Pope Francis in October 2014: Pope Francis: ‘Evolution … is not inconsistent with the notion of creation’.

A good article about colors in Mars is: Barry DiGregorio, 2012 Contact in Context, Mars – No longer the Red planet but rather, the Golden Brown planet

During years 2014, 2015 and 2016 scientists, working with Life on Mars issue, have experienced following criminal activity: breaking into their laptops and attacks against their web sites. Also direct threats (to kill), and execution of the threats, against scientists are on the toolbox (cases Rhawn Joseph 2014 and Richard Hoover 2011). And the Chief of NASA Security makes threatening phone calls( as the one 16th of May 2016) to scientist presenting evidence for life on Mars. Is the security chief the best astrobiologist NASA has? Why does NASA Administration want to kill free discussion about this issue? Dr. Hoover is respected astrobiologists at NASA. He made major discovery and published it in article: Journal of Cosmology, 2011: Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites.

Read also article by Patrick Rowan, based on Gilbert V.Levin's interview, 2nd of August 2016: Patrick Rowan's Skywatch: Is NASA running away from life on Mars?. In this excellent article it comes clear that NASA scientists are denied to publish evidence for life on Mars. There are several cases where NASA has forced scientist to withdraw their planned science publications of key evidence for life on Mars. The first threat inside NASA is to cut the funding of the science team, if they make the publication. That is the end of your career in science. Dr. John Grotzinger had to withdraw "Earth shaking" news in 2012. Dr. Carol Stoker had to withdraw chlorophyll result 2002. Dr. Daniel Glavin had to withdraw a paper about finding molecules like those in all microbiological membranes in Curiosity results in 2015. Access to Curiosity organic analysis experiment results are restricted. Nora Noffke’s(2015) and Giorgio Bianciardi’s(2014) observations about microbialities in Mars were ignored by NASA. Modern day inquisition.

This kind of criminal actions against scientists can not originate from low level administrators inside NASA. The order and approval for this must come from high level. What is the role of the NASA administrator Charles Bolden in this? Does Mr. Bolden, ex US Army general, define what scientists are allowed to say and publish? This has serious consequences for planetary protection, to life on both Mars and on Earth. Scientists and science editors, who still have morale and courage left, should now think if it is right to continue the silence. Should we just repeat the public Lifeless Mars paradigm as NASA Administration wants? Or should we use our own eyes and brains in front of all the new evidence? It is sad to see the newspapers and media, even scientific magazines, blindly repeat the NASA and SpaceX manned mission to Mars news. The planetary protection issue is completely missed. Where is investigating journalism?

When Galileo Galilei pointed the telescope for the first time to the sky he made a large set of discoveries, which changed our view of the world. Church inquisition demanded him to deny the discoveries. Now we have had and have on Mars landers and rovers with excellent cameras and instruments. They have done unexpected discoveries, life on Mars, even visible on the surface, both current and past life. And again we have inquisition which wants to deny these discoveries at any cost. The current situation with Life on Mars can be well compared to story by Hans Christian Andersen , The Emperor's New Clothes. The truth can easily be seen, but almost nobody dares to say it, because the Emperor NASA is quiet. Do you remember what happened to the Emperor at the end of the story? Good thoughts around this area is written by Patrick Rowan in his Skywatch blog, October 31st 2016: Searching for life, whether its microbes or megastructures.

By writing the year 2016 article Mission to Mars: The Integration of Planetary Protection Requirements and Medical Support I see that at the same time doctors John D. Rummel( ex COSPAR PP, ex NASA PPO), Margaret S. Race(SETI, PP), Catharine A. Conley(NASA PPO) and David Liskowsky (NASA Medical Officer) take an important stand for freedom of science and for the basic human right, the freedom of speech. Their article says the things as they are. It gives the correct view, which is completely different than the NASA's public Hollywood style conquering of Lifeless Mars. Thank You John, Margaret, Catharine and David. Article belongs to a series "If Life is Discovered on Mars" in Cosmology.com. Other articles in the series are:

Gilbert V. Levin: Extant Life on Mars: Resolving the Issues
Robert J.C. McLean: Planetary Protection and Missions Between Earth and Mars
Mihai G. Netea, Frank L. van de Veerdonk, Marc Strous, Jos W.M. van der Meer: Infection Risk of a Human Mission to Mars
S. Leuko, L. J. Rothschild, B. P. Burns: Halophilic Archaea and the Search for Extinct and Extant Life on Mars
Rhawn Joseph: A Low to High Probability of Life on Mars: Biologists' Top Five Candidates For Martian Life
Rhawn Joseph (assisted by H.Rabb): Contamination and Damage to the Mars Rovers by Martian Fungi and Bacteria.

In May 2017 Dr. Kelly Smith invited Harry Rabb, the author of this Life on Mars web site, to participate the SoCIA 2018 conference: Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology in USA University of Nevada, Reno, in April 2018. I see this invitation as an acknowledgement of the work done by several involved scientists last years and even last decades. Dr.Smith is Professor of Philosophy & Biological Sciences in Clemson University. Read also interesting article by Smith, May 2016: Do no harm to life on Mars? Ethical limits of Prime Directive. In the first SoCIA 2016 meeting there was participants from NASA, SETI institute and several universities. And see SoCIA 2018 statement by NASA: Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology (SOCIA 2018).

In Finland the astrobiology activities are lead by Kirsi Lehto and Harry Lehto in University of Turku. NASA has requested Olli-Pekka Vainio from Helsinki University to Princenton University to a group which studies the impact of astrobiology to our world view.

In Sweden professors Natuschka Lee and Asta Pellinen-Wannberg from Umeå University, Sweden, organized Astrobiology conference Life on Earth and in the Universe Current State & Future Visions in October 2017. The presentations had several interesting issues.

In 2015 the otherwise very entertaining and good movie The Martian, gave an incorrect view of Manned mission to lifeless Mars. It is good that there is coming a more realistic movie LIFE by Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2017 handling the Planetary Protection concern if sample from Mars, with Martian life is brought to Earth. This way large public can easily understand the issues around planetary protection. The year 2017 book The Origin by Dan Brown also nicely brings up some astrobiology issues.

Epilogue: Mars - The Living Planet

Until September 28th 2015 NASA promoted the dry and Lifeless Mars paradigm for 40 years. In September 28th 2015 NASA presented a new paradigm: Liquid water and possibly microbial life. But nothing more. How long will it take that macroscopic life, both past and present, visible in hundreds of images is admitted? Is the time for the final paradigm change “Mars – The Living Planet” around 2030 after first man has stepped on Mars and the planetary protection damage has been done by ‘accident’? "Sorry, we did not know....".

I agree on that humanity must continue developing space travel and maybe finally make colonies to Mars. We must become interplanetary and even interstellar species. But intermediate cautious steps must be taken when the target planet where we go is already habited. We should now continue with robotic missions to Mars instead of manned missions, until we are sure that there is no harm in the exchange of life forms between Mars and Earth. As an intermediate step, a manned Mars biology research laboratory to the orbit of Mars? Planetary Protection First! Robert Walker in UK describes very well how space exploration plans should be modified concerning Mars and planetary protection, October 2016: President Obama, Why Humans On Mars Right Now Are Bad For Science . In short: Manned missions to orbit of Mars and from the orbit guiding of sterilized robotic Avatars on surface to study biology.

Below is interesting details of Esperance site by Opportunity. Opportunity spent 60 days closely investigating this extremely interesting object. It is natural to ask following question: Why there are no sharp images in image archive of these interesting details, which are just under reach of microscopic imager? Same question can be asked for several other objects, clearly past and present life on Mars, presented in this web-page. Was the assumption of rover science teams, that there can only be microbial life on Mars? And if they saw anything else on the images, they just thought it is not possible and kept on driving, without investigating them? Or they have investigated them but the images and data is kept secret? Or no investigation done because finding life on Mars is not on current mission objectives? These attitude issues can be read more in articles: NASA 2014-8-21, Bone up on Mars Rock Shapes and . Universe Today, Elizabeth Howell 2014-9-4, NASA Curiosity Rover Missing ‘Scientific Focus And Detail’ In Mars Mission: Review.

Fig.16.1.Details of Esperance.

About my background: I have had astronomy, sciences and philosophy as a hobby over 40 years. Education: Master of Science degree from Helsinki University of Technology, part of Aalto University today. The objects presented in this web-page were found mainly by going through systematically the Curiosity and Opportunity image archives, during four years. NASA has presented only some of the objects. Motivation for deep dive into archives came from this: In 2013 Steven Benner's theory about life born in Mars was widely promoted in news. At the same time I found in internet images and writings about Sol-109 object. My first reaction was "This is not possible, must be a practical joke or misinterpretation. NASA says Mars is lifeless". I wanted to verify the authenticity of the images, so I searched the original images from the Curiosity archive. Then I started to check other images close to Sol-109, and then I started systematic visual check for all the images. During the process I have had the luck to establish contact and have mail discussion with some of the leading scientists related to Mars research, astrobiology and planetary protection. The first one who ever did systematic visual check for Mars images, was Dr. Gilbert V. Levin. He checked all the Viking lander images and found in some images greenish patches with seasonal changes[63].

I am in a way in good position that i have astronomy just as a hobby. I can say freely and honestly what can be seen in the Mars rover images. The publications by Curiosity and Opportunity science teams linked in this web-page suggest in titles and content that there is life on Mars. This becomes also very clear when you have spent few first months in Mars rover archives, and you see how Mars rovers are moved to interesting targets. But yet the direct announcement by NASA "Yes, we have found life on Mars" is missing. And because of that official view of NASA still is "There is no proof for life on Mars"? Having the wrong official view leads to dangerous consequences when samples with alien microbes are returned from Mars to Earth in 2020 decade. We must be cautious when opening Pandora's box from Mars.

Fig.16.2. The writer of this article working as summer student in Geneva CERN year 1989. In this picture there is Delphi detector of LEP-collider, 100 meters underground. The electrons and positrons (matter and antimatter) were accelerated in 27 kilometers long tunnel close to speed of light. Collisions were done in 4 places, one of them this Delphi detector. Conditions in the collision are same as in first second after birth of the Universe in Big Bang. The LEP-collider produced Z and W bosons so that their mass could be determined. Image on right: Printout of first Z-zero detected by Delphi. Discovery was done by finnish physicist P.Eerola. Printout was signed, on my request, by CERN director Carlo Rubbia. The Finnish science group was led by R. Orava.

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to doctors Lyall Winston Small, Ian West, Barry E.DiGregorio, Gilbert V. Levin and Rhawn Joseph. And I am grateful to a friend in Massachusetts USA, for comprehensive discussions and help. And to 8 other well-known scientists in USA, UK, Russia, Australia, Sweden and Finland for communication. I am grateful to Dr. Kelly Smith, who arranged this study to SoCIA 2018 agenda. And thanks for Dr. Margaret Race from SETI institute for unforgettable face to face discussion in University of Nevada after my presentation in SoCIA2018 astrobiology conference. I am grateful to my wife for discussions on the biological fundamentals. She has done research on the interactions of environmental chemicals with DNA in her PhD. Special thanks goes to my uncle and his wife, who taught me how to identify Cantharellus Tubaeformis fungi in autumn forest. And thanks to my sister in assisting this work.

This article may contain mistakes, and I am alone responsible for those. I have written this as a private person, and I do not represent any university or commercial company.Saunalahti is a commercial internet provider in Finland and it has nothing to do with this study. You, the reader, can freely distribute the link to this article and download this article in PDF format.

Harry Rabb, M.Sc., Kirkkonummi - Finland 2013-2018

Appendix A: References
Appendix B: Image processing
Appendix C: Guidelines for visual search for life on Mars
Appendix D: Fermi paradox
Appendix E: SoCIA 2018 Astrobiology conference, University of Nevada, Reno

PDF book Scribd book Astronomy web SoCia 2018 slides
Archive: Mars Today Archive: Mars Images YouTube channel Mars slideset 2018

Contacts concerning this web-page: harryrabb.space (at) gmail.com

Visitors since january 2014.