NASA’s chief scientist said that if evidence of life on Mars was found, he doesn’t think the public is ready to deal with the ramifications such a discovery would present.
“It will be revolutionary,” chief scientist Jim Green told the Telegraph. “It will start a whole new line of thinking. I don’t think we’re prepared for the results. We’re not.”
Green, the director of the agency’s Planetary Science Division, said such findings would rock astrobiology to its core.
“What happens next is a whole new set of scientific questions,” he said. “Is that life like us? How are we related?”
NASA is preparing to launch its Mars 2020 Rover next summer and start excavating immediately after it lands in February 2021. It will drill into the Red Planet’s crust and send samples back to Earth. It’s below the Martian surface that evidence of life could be unearthed.
“We’ve never drilled that deep,” Green said. “When environments get extreme, life moves into the rocks.”
Should the rover fail to find biosignatures of living organisms within the planet, it will switch to its secondary function: monitoring the surface and weather patterns to assess the viability of future human colonies.