While Venus stole the headlines this week over the possibility of extraterrestrial life, some researchers believe Mars is still the best bet to find life away from Earth. However, new research has cast doubt over the possibility of ever discovering life on Mars, by claiming chemical processes may have eroded any evidence.

Both NASA’s Perseverance Rover and the European Space Agency’s Rosalind Franklin rover will analyse soil samples on the Red Planet to search for signs of historic life.

Clay soils on Mars have been touted as the preferred soil samples as they are betting at preserving past activity.

But new research has claimed the fact that the Martian surface used to have acidic fluids on it means any signs of life may have been eroded.

Alberto G. Fairén, of the Department of Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University and was involved in the study, said: “We know that acidic fluids have flowed on the surface of Mars in the past, altering the clays and its capacity to protect organics.”

Mr Fairén and co simulated the conditions of the Martian surface by looking at how glycine – an amino acid which is considered to be one of the building blocks of life – was preserved when exposed to acidic fluids.

After exposure to Mars-like ultraviolet radiation, glycine molecules began to show signs of degradation, according to the research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Mr Fairén said: “We used glycine because it could rapidly degrade under the planet’s environmental conditions.

“It’s perfect informer to tell us what was going on inside our experiments.

“When clays are exposed to acidic fluids, the layers collapse and the organic matter can’t be preserved. They are destroyed.

“Our results in this paper explain why searching for organic compounds on Mars is so sorely difficult.”

Other scientists believe soil samples on Mars is the best bet for finding alien life, especially from the Perseverance Rover.

Monica Grady, professor of planetary and space sciences at The Open University, is optimistic the rover and its equipment could find life.

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She wrote in an article for The Conversation: “While this rover will be just one of many on the red planet, it is our best bet for finding life there for the time being.

“Perseverance carries a full complement of scientific instruments that will measure all the usual things that get measured on Mars: the chemistry and mineralogy of the rocks and soil, the amount and type or organic material present at and just below the surface, and so on.

“Perseverance is the first rover to have the capability to drill a core, about ten centimetres long and one centimetre in diameter, and extract it intact from the drill hole.

“Perseverance will take samples from a range of different rock types as it traverses the crater floor.

“The drill cores will be left in a small pile – a cache – for collection, possibly in early 2027, and subsequent transport back to Earth (estimated arrival time is still not known, but maybe around spring 2032).”

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