Portuguese scientist in Macau seeks life on Mars

in News · 31-07-2020 11:42:00 · 0 Comments

A Portuguese scientist who leads an astrobiology unit in Macau told Lusa that he is involved in projects to discover life on Mars.

“My role and the role of the astrobiology unit that was recently created (…) is to inform (…) and prepare (…) the technical and laboratory conditions necessary for the success of future Chinese missions looking for life on Mars and elsewhere in the solar system” explained André Antunes.

Almost a week after Beijing launched a probe to land on the red planet, a project in which the University of Science and Technology of Macau (MUST) is involved, the institution's associate professor stressed that the “mission is very important in the scope of collecting data (…), namely at the level of water ice existing in the subsoil” of Mars, not least because “water is essential for life as (…) we know it ”.

The restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the fieldwork scheduled for Cape Verde and Portugal, in the salt flats of Aveiro, two places whose choice is explained by the natural scientist from Coimbra: “Taking into account that the water to exist on Mars will be water with high salt content, it is essential to investigate environments with high salt content also on our planet ”.

“We currently have field trips, sample collections scheduled for Cape Verde, inland China, salt flats in Aveiro, salt flats that exist in the interior of Spain, because they all have conditions that are extremely interesting and very useful for the study of Mars”, pointed out the person in charge of the astrobiology unit at the State Reference Laboratory for Lunar and Planetary Science at MUST.

In other words, he explained, much of the research in this area is dedicated to analysing "existing environments on Earth that have similar conditions" to those that can be found on Mars or in other parts of the solar system".

The covid-19 pandemic “hindered the work to establish the [astrobiology] unit a bit and even for scheduling scientific expeditions, taking samples, hiring new people”, but the mission remains crucial and it will be scheduled as soon as the new coronavirus takes a break, he assured.

MUST is involved in the Chinese mission to explore Mars after Beijing launched a probe on to land on the red planet.

At the moment, the laboratory for Popular and Planetary Science at the university has 11 research projects on Mars, completed or under development, and will continue to be involved in exploration work related to the exploration of the planet, space and extra-terrestrial life.

MUST has, since the end of 2019, a Science and Space Exploration Centre of the National Space Administration, under a scientific and technological development cooperation agreement signed in December 2019 between that Chinese entity and the Government of Macau.

A year earlier, the Ministry of Science and Technology had already approved the establishment of the State Laboratory for Lunar and Planetary Sciences.


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