Star Trek: Starships That Detect Signs of Life vs. Today: Mars Research Spacecraft That Detect Signs of Life
The Enterprise’s onboard sensors were so sophisticated they could detect planetary life forms from orbit. While today’s Mars orbiters and rovers are less refined, they have managed to uncover clues that the Red Planet is hospitable to life. A neutron spectrometer aboard NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter
(the communications link to the Mars rover shown here), for instance, has detected large amounts of hydrogen in the Martian soil--a promising sign of the presence of water ice and a life-friendly environment--but it isn’t equipped to find and identify actual life forms. Future missions (such as the ExoMars rover
, which will drill into the Martian soil for organic molecules) will have better life-sniffing skills.