WNY researcher wants to use NASA rover to prove life on Mars

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- NASA announced Monday it has found strong evidence water flows on the surface of Mars. Now, a local researcher wants NASA to approve his plan to find life on the Red Planet.

“Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past,” announced NASA officials.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured dark features on a crater that increased during summer months and receded during cooler months. NASA researchers used an imaging spectrometer to detect salty water flowing.

“There was resistance to it being water,” said Barry DiGregorio, an honorary research fellow at the University at Buckingham’s Center for Astrology.

DiGregorio is a Western New Yorker who’s studied life on Mars for decades. He said scientists argued the pressure wasn’t high enough for liquid water to exist on Mars and some thought the dark features were carbon dioxide explosions or debris.

DiGregorio hopes to move forward with research to find life on Mars now that NASA has announced there’s evidence it’s water.

“All of the evidence, hard scientific evidence, points there are living microorganisms in the soil of Mars,” he said.

In 1997, DiGregorio published a book with lead researchers in the field about the evidence of life on Mars. He told News 4 there are new elements indicating life could exist in the crater where those flows were observed.

“The Curiosity rover has found methane emanating from somewhere inside the crater, found evidence of long chain organic molecules, the type that cell walls are made of,” said DiGregorio.

He’s asking NASA to allow him to use Curiosity over the next 4 years, as it climbs a high mountain in the middle of the crater. The heavy rover can break rocks as it travels and DiGregorio wants the rover to document what the rocks look like.

“Why not take the opportunity to have the rover, whenever it runs over and breaks one of these rocks, to look at evidence of life,” he said. “These types of microorganisms we’re looking for can be seen with the naked eye so we thought ‘It hasn’t been done yet, let’s try it’.”

He said Curiosity was never intended to look for life. His project will cost $25,000 per year over the course of four years. The UK Space Agency has agreed to pay for the project.

DiGregorio has assembled an international team of researchers who are so interested in the project, they’ve signed up to work for free.

In a few days, he expects to hear back from NASA on whether or not they’ll approve the research. He says when the UK Space Agency sent its endorsement of the project to NASA, NASA in turn reached out DiGregorio with a positive message.

He hopes the new announcement of water on Mars will give them even more incentive to say yes.


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