Is Mars habitable? That’s tougher to answer than you might think

By Xaq Rzetelny

It’s no secret that the possibility of life on Mars has tantalized us for a long time now. Even today, despite the knowledge that there are no intelligent Martians, the idea works its way into science fiction, as movies like John Carter, The Last Days on Mars, and the animated film Mars Needs Moms demonstrate. Even the character of Spock on Star Trek was originally conceived as a Martian!

But the concept isn’t limited to science fiction; scientific interest in life on Mars continues. Scientists, of course, aren’t expecting to find any little green men, but it’s still an open question whether some form of microbial life could exist there, especially given Mars’ relatively Earth-like past and the presence of chemicals necessary for life as we know it. But is there a real possibility that Mars could hold some sort of life? Is the planet’s apparent similarity to Earth really enough to allow for life to have formed?

Perhaps most significantly, is the planet habitable to life today?

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