Scientists suggest life can't exist on Mars' surface

B-movie sci-fi fans prepare to be disappointed: the surface of Mars is officially an unlikely place to find life after a 600 million year drought.

David Bowie’s planet looks like it has been completely arid for over 600 million years, according to researchers at Imperial College London, which has made it far too hostile for life to survive on the surface. A team of researchers has been pouring over data from NASA’s 2008 Phoenix trip to Mars, where Phoenix landed and searched for any signs that the planet was habitable. It was also used to analyse ice and soil it could collect.

Unfortunately for sci-fi buffs, the results of the soil analysis point to Mars having been arid for hundreds of millions of years. That is despite the ice on the planet. Prior research showed that Mars could have had a warmer and wetter climate in its history but that would have been over 3 billion years ago.

Of course, Phoenix was only able to trawl a portion of the planet, but satellite images, along with previous studies, do suggest that the same soil can be found across the whole planet – meaning the team’s findings could be applied to all of Mars.

Dr Pike, lead author on the study, said: “We found that even though there is an abundance of ice, Mars has been experiencing a super-drought that may well have lasted hundreds of millions of years.”

However, Pike did say the team thinks Mars is very different now than in its earlier history. Future NASA and ESA missions, he said, will dig deeper to explore the possibility of life underground.