Human missions can only search life on Mars: NASA Chief Scientist

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Ellen Stofan
Ellen Stofan

Los Angeles : NASA on Monday cleared air on sending humans to Mars by calling it a powerful step in the search for life beyond Earth.

Chief scientist Ellen Stofan while answering to media questions at a scientific workshop in Irvine, California, hosted by the National Academy of Sciences said, “I am someone who believes it is going to take humans on the surface [of Mars] … to really get at the question of not just did life evolve on Mars, but what is the nature of that life. To me, we're going to go Mars because Mars holds the answers to such fundamental scientific questions that we're trying to ask. We now know water was stable for long periods of time on the surface [of Mars], and Mars' potential for habitability, I think, is huge. I do believe that we need … brave people to spend time on Mars, to have a scientific laboratory on Mars, to do the work that we need to do to truly understand what life on Mars tells us about life beyond Earth."

Stofan said that she still believes in sending humans to Mars as they can perform hard tasks which rover cannot. Humans can operate drills that could go deeper than the few inches plumbed by the Curiosity rover, or even beyond a depth of 6.5 feet (2 meters), which is the expected limit for the Mars 2020 rover.

The workshop, titled "Searching for Life Across Space and Time," brought scientists together who are in some or the other ways are searching for life beyond Earth's solar system.