The question of life on Mars—primordial or present—still fascinates many, has inspired countless works of speculative fiction, and not a few movies. Earthly orbiters, and the Viking landers in the mid 70s, returned useful—if ambiguous—data. The planet probably once had a thicker atmosphere, rushing rivers and, perhaps, microbial (or larger) life. But, short of humans risking a brutally long space flight (40,000,000 miles over 6-8 months), and getting their boots dusted red, discovering incontrovertible evidence without deep burrowing seems unlikely. Maybe.
Explore Mars, a not-for-profit group, is campaigning—via IndieGoGo—for funding of its ExoLance instrument, designed to dig two meters (roughly six feet) into Martian soil seeking subsurface life, or any definitive markers of a fertile past. The group's initial goal, reported Elizabeth Howell on
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