Richland scientist working with NASA in search for signs of anci - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Richland scientist working with NASA in search for signs of ancient life on Mars

Posted: Updated:

RICHLAND, WA - A local scientist has traveled all over the world doing research. Now, it's going galactic: she's working with NASA in the search for signs of ancient life on Mars. Some of that work is being done in the EMSL Lab at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

"The question is, did life every emerge on Mars? If it did, did it take hold? If it did, can we find evidence of it? And if we can't, why not? Why didn't it start there, because all the conditions were right," said Scientist Sherry Cady. Those are the types of questions she ponders on the daily.

"Mars is awful cold and awful dry right now but very early in Mars history and very early in Earth history, they were very similar planets and we know life emerged here," said Cady.

Cady is an expert on rocks and microbials. With the right high-tech instruments and a lot of smarts, she sees things in rocks that the rest of us do not.

"Whether there's organics, are there cells, whether there are features in the rocks or minerals that indicate microbial life was there," said Cady.

Billion year old earth rocks from far off places like Morocco, Iceland and New Zealand do show signs of early life. 

"Now we have projects that are focused on environments that are very much like ancient Mars, as close as we can get to ancient Mars, even though we're still here on earth," said Cady.

One such place is a Chilean desert region that boasts some old hot springs. Cady says what researchers found there is encouraging.

"Yep, there's life there and there are organics preserved in those rocks," said Cady.

Organics are any type of remains from any living organism, even microbials that are too small for the eye to see.

"We're looking for microbial life on Mars, we're not looking for little green men. we know that early earth had bacteria and it lived on rocks and in wet places. so we're looking for the remains of micro-organisms when we're searching for life on Mars," said Cady.

Cady is working under a nearly $1.5 million grant over the next several years on this project. The work will help NASA's 2020 Mars rover mission in knowing what to look for on the red planet and which samples need analyzing and sent back to earth. The European Space Agency is also planning a 2020 Mars mission.

HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Tri-CitiesTri-Cities NewsMore>>

  • Kennewick Police searching for people who burglarized and trashed a food truck

    Kennewick Police searching for people who burglarized and trashed a food truck

    Tuesday, September 18 2018 12:12 PM EDT2018-09-18 16:12:44 GMT

    Kennewick Police are investigating a burglary at Taco Zone where they took items and vandalized it, cutting wires and damaging appliances.

    More >>

    Kennewick Police are investigating a burglary at Taco Zone where they took items and vandalized it, cutting wires and damaging appliances.

    More >>
  • Former Chiawana security guard formally charged with sexual misconduct

    Former Chiawana security guard formally charged with sexual misconduct

    Monday, September 17 2018 10:56 PM EDT2018-09-18 02:56:55 GMT

    Two men who were previously employed with the Pasco School District are currently suspects in separate allegations of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor in the First Degree. 

    More >>

    Two men who were previously employed with the Pasco School District are currently suspects in separate allegations of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor in the First Degree. 

    More >>
  • Armed person shot by police after refusing to obey commands

    Armed person shot by police after refusing to obey commands

    Monday, September 17 2018 7:25 PM EDT2018-09-17 23:25:20 GMT

    The deceased subject was identified as Christopher Adam Borland, age 40 of Walla Walla

    More >>

    The deceased subject was identified as Christopher Adam Borland, age 40 of Walla Walla

    More >>