After four decades of fly-by probes, orbiters, landers, and rovers, the quest for life on Mars is as tantalizing as ever. With unique access to the NASA Phoenix and Mars Exploration Rover missions, NOVA shows scientists and engineers in action, directing the operations of spacecraft millions of miles away, as the robotic explorers drill into rock, claw into soil, analyze samples, and trundle across the rock-strewn landscape in search for signs that Mars once or maybe even still harbors some form of life. NOVA goes behind the scenes of the latest NASA missions to the Red Planet to reveal new clues and challenges on the road to answering this ultimate question: Is there life on Mars? See some of the finest images ever taken of the martian surface—including Phoenix's most famous—on the program's companion website.If it takes this long to figure out, maybe the answer is, no.
Like, how long would it take to figure out if there is life on Earth? Clue: Bacteria live at high altitudes and latitudes that few even notice. Here on the level ground we kill zillions of life forms every time we wash our hands or sterilize a piece of equipment. And no one cares because there are plenty more where they came from.
If a planet has life, you will know, pretty quickly.