Scientists have finally discovered why there is no life on Mars

Scientists have finally discovered why there is no life on Mars

To answer the late David Bowie: No, there isn't life on Mars. The big orange planet, which is the second closest to Earth, is often seen as a place where, if it all went wrong down here, humans would try and move to. While this is of course pie in the sky and we wouldn't actually survive on Mars, humankind has been obsessed with it for a very long time.

As technology has advanced, so has our ability to find out about the history of our solar system and the planets that exist inside of it. For instance, we do know that there was once water on Mars. But while evidence of water tends to mean chances of life, there is sadly nothing up there. But why?

Mars Credit: NASA

Well, according to new research by scientists at Oxford University, it's due to the fact that surface water was absorbed into the planet's crust.

The research was led by the university's department of Earth sciences and it serves to provide an insight into the subtle changes to planetary conditions that can dictate whether life is possible or not.

It is believed that Mars was covered in water until three billion years ago. However, the Mars that we see today is a barren and dry landscape, making the concept of Martians a distant pipe dream apart from in science fiction novels and movies.

Scientists have spent a long time wondering what happened to the water that used to cover Mars, with previous research suggesting that a large part of planet's water was sucked into space after its magnetic field collapsed.

But the new research suggests that this water is still there, locked into the planet's surface due to a series of chemical reactions in the inside of its rocky crust.

Mars surface Credit: NASA

Dr. Jon Wade, the lead researcher of the study said:  “On Mars, water reacting with the freshly erupted lavas that form its basaltic crust resulted in a sponge-like effect.”

“This water-rock reaction changed the rock mineralogy and caused the planetary surface to dry and become inhospitable to life,” he said.

It was these small variations between Earth and other planets in the solar system, such as Mars, that means that life is able to emerge and survive on our planet.

“The biggest difference being that Mars has more iron in its mantle rocks, as the planet formed under marginally more oxidizing conditions,” said Dr. Wade.

Surface of Mars Credit: NASA

Despite the lack of water on the planet, the scientists say that the rocks on Mars are capable of holding about 25 percent more water than those on Earth, and that it's these rocks that transport water into the planet's interior.

Professor Jim McElwaine, a research at Durham University,  said that while Mars doesn't possess the water that Earth does, it is not completely dry.

“We know there was lots of water on Mars in the past, billions of years ago,” he said. “But we also know there’s lots of water there now – in ice.”

So there is no life on Mars as all the water has been absorbed by the thirsty planet. Still, just because there isn't life on Mars, doesn't mean that aliens don't exist.