The discovery of extraterrestrial life could be imminent according to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The space agency’s chief told an audience in Washington that his expert team are on the brink of making a historic find.
NASA’s Mars missions could soon uncover signs of life on the red planet, which has been the focus of attention for decades.
His comments came shortly after the space agency announced that they had abandoned their Mars Opportunity rover on the planet.
NASA plans to assess the Martian soil for ‘biosignatures’ that show signs of life.
‘We’re going to be able to look at samples and determine if there’s a biosignature in there,’ Mr Bridenstine said at NASA’s headquarters.
‘The goal is to discover life on another world; that’s what we’re trying to achieve.
‘And because of so many great people in this room, friends, we are well on our way to doing that.’
His confidence stems from three previous finds on Mars, the presence of methane and other organic molecules which are deemed the building blocks of life, as well as water beneath the planet’s south pole.
‘All of these things collude to say there is a lot we need to learn, and friends, we’re going to do it quickly,’ Mr Bridenstine added.
WHAT DID THE OPPORTUNITY ROVER ACHIEVE ON MARS?
Though Opportunity was intended to last just 90 Martian sols, it survived for a staggering 14-and-a-half years.
Its many successes include:
- A one-day Mars driving record March 20, 2005, when it traveled 721 feet (220 meters)
- More than 217,000 images, including 15 360-degree color panoramas
- Exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces, and cleared 72 additional targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection
- Found hematite, a mineral that forms in water, at its landing site
- Discovered strong indications at Endeavour Crater of the action of ancient water similar to drinkable water of a pond or lake on Earth
NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover is set to embark on its mission in July 2020 and is expected reach its famous destination circa February 2021.
But that’s not their only endeavour. Earlier this month, Mr Bridenstine reasserted plans for NASA to return to the moon by 2028, where they plan ‘to stay’.
He said they plan to make the moon sustainable for humans so they can go back and forth regularly.
‘This time, when we go to the moon, we’re actually going to stay. We’re not going to leave flags and footprints and then come home to not go back for another 50 years.
‘We’re doing it entirely different than every other country in the world. What we’re doing is, we’re making it sustainable so you can go back and forth regularly with humans,’ he said.
President Donal Trump said in 2017 that he wants to return Americans to the moon and establish a foundation there for an eventual mission to Mars.