The Engaging Talks on Highly Existing Research (ETHER) society organized a very intriguing talk on the possibility of life on Mars naming ‘Is there life on Mars?’ by Dr. S. M. Ahmed, Principal Scientific Officer, Central Instruments Laboratory, University of Hyderabad (UoH) on August 30, 2017 at the Center for Integrated Studies auditorium.
Recipient of Surya Dutta National Award for Scientific Research, Dr. Ahmed touched upon various research activities and scientific findings going on throughout the world to find out if there is life on Mars. Putting scientific jargons in a layman’s language he took the audience on a journey to various scientific discoveries, journey to Moon and Mars and India’s contribution in finding water on Moon.
Sharing the incidences which lead to the Moon Impact Probe Mission as a part of Chandrayaan-I by the former Indian President and renowned scientist Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, he recalled what Dr. Kalam had said to ISRO team in an international Lunar Group Meeting in Udaipur, “Instead of taking an orbit around the Moon, the time has come for us to embrace it by sending a messenger from India.” Explaining different genres and facets science has, the former ISRO Scientist said, “For a layman there is nothing on the Moon but for a composition scientist there is a lot.”
He spoke about the project ‘Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)’ taken up in 1960 by Frank Drake, who was trying to look for radio signals sent by the intelligent life in the universe in finding another world. Talking about the Breakthrough Listen initiative he also mentioned the Russian investor Yuri Milner, who provided $100 million fund for SETI.
Dr. Ahmed, who has a firsthand experience in building a quadrupole mass spectrometer in MIP Mission talked about the future mission called EXOMARS Rover by European Space Agency which will be sent to mars in 2018. The Indian probe, Mass Orbiter Mission (MOM) also called Mangalyaan which carried a dedicated instrument to look for the presence of Methane and a similar instrument like CHACE now called as MENCA in MOM both of which are the front runners for hunting down the elusive Methane, which would serve as an indirect signature of presence of life on Mars. He also warned the audience of the morphed pictures that miscommunicate the presence of aliens on Mars which just mislead people.
Answering to the audiences’ questions in the end he amusingly responded to the availability of one way tickets to Mars and how so many people from India have enrolled for it, he said, “The organizers have promised to take people to the Mars but there is no guarantee of bringing them back.”
– Swati Pant and Monika Tiwari, M.A. Communication