Is Mars A 'Dead Planet' As Depicted On Images Taken By Mariner 4 Spacecraft?

First Posted: Nov 30, 2016 03:03 AM EST

Red Planet Day is commended on Nov. 28. This day also commemorates the launch of the Mariner 4 spacecraft on Nov. 28, 1964. The spacecraft sent back the first close-up photos of the Red Planet.

These photos provided information about how to have safe future missions to the Red Planet. In the 22-grainy black and white images taken by Mariner 4 spacecraft, they showed that Mars had craters like the Moon. They also indicated that the Red Planet was not teeming with life as some had speculated, according to BBC.

In New York Times on July 30 with the editorial titled the Dead Planet, it stated that Mars, as it now appears, is a desolate world. It further stated that its surface bathed in deadly radiation from outer space, it has the very little atmosphere and it has probably never had large bodies of water such as those in which life developed on this planet, according to National Geographic.

On the other hand, after three months of releasing the photos, the National Academy of Sciences stated that given all the evidence presently available, they believe it entirely reasonable that Mars is inhabited with living organisms and life independently originated there. It also cautioned that those lifeforms on Mars would be microbes that would be impossible to identify without landing on the surface.

Likewise, the NASA History Office explained that the spacecraft had, after all, imaged only 1 percent of Mars at a resolution so low that had it photographed Earth. It further explained that scientists examining its pictures would likely have missed all signs of terrestrial life.

Behind the disappointments of the photos taken by the spacecraft, the search for life on Mars continues for decades. After 20 years, on Aug. 7, 1996, geologists from NASA announced the discovery of microscopic fossils in a meteorite that originated from Mars. This electron microscopic imagery of the meteorite uncovered wormlike shapes that looked organic. This induced that the Red Planet labeled once as "Dead Planet" turned out to be a possibility of finding life on other worlds.

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