Official proof of life on Mars can come within "few months"

Illustration of orbital probe ExoMars leaving Earth. Credit: ESA

ESA's trace Gas Orbiter probe initiated its search mission for traces of biologically produced methane on Mars. The spacecraft, which reached a stable orbit at the beginning of the month of April (2018), is now actively seeking for traces of methane in an attempt to determine whether or not life is on Mars.

According to scientists, an answer to the mystery can come within just a few months.

Mark McCaughrean of ESA said:

If we find traces of methane mixed with more complex organic molecules, it will be a strong signal that methane on Mars has a biological source and is being produced – or has already been produced – by living organisms.

However, if we find it mixed with gases like sulfur dioxide, it will suggest that its source is geological, not biological. In addition, biologically generated methane tends to contain lighter isotopes of the carbon element than methane that is geologically generated.