Researchers working with the MIT-based Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes are adapting gene sequencing tools to explore whether there is life on Mars, Quartz reports. It notes that the researchers are seeking out extreme environments on Earth — such as spots with high salinity or acidity — to test their approaches.
The project, it adds, assumes that if there is indeed any type of life on Mars that it is likely similar to what has arisen on Earth and could be detected using similar approaches. In particular, the team is combining tools from Claremont BioSolutions and Oxford Nanopore Technologies into a platform that it hopes could someday be sent to Mars to collect and analyze samples, without the need for a human operator, Quartz says. The team plans to test the instrument it is building in the Atacama desert of Chile next April to show NASA that it is ready for space.
While there may be life on Mars, there also may not be. But, Christopher Carr, an MIT astrobiologist working on the project tells Quartz that "it seems likely enough that we ought to check."