NASA is probably overextending it’s ambitions, with a PR machine in overdrive and the over-exuberance for a manned mission to Mars on the back of the movie success of The Martian. The concept of sending humans to Mars is an endearing prospect but ultimately a mission that may be problematic in the sense the length of time for a mission to Mars, radiation and a planet that may only reveal bacterial/cell life (which is already speculated too exist on the red planet), to build an above ground base on Mars would seem an overly expensive and dangerous concept and bring in no real benefit about from a satisfaction in ‘human endeavour’. Should we be concentrating, in our search for life, on other objects in our solar system? From a humble perspective until our technology improves, it may be more worthwhile revisiting the moon, building bases, more so underground design concepts. Recently it has been revealed that Mars’s mountain ranges show signs of flowing salty water from what could be within the planet, this is the most important evidence yet of the possibility that life exists in our solar system, but it may not be on the surface of the planets and/or moons. Due to inhospitable environments and extreme radiation. The Mars mission should not be shelved as such, but left till we have faster rocket propulsion and the right building/structural foundations for underground habitats. Robots and virtual reality systems here on Earth could lay down the foundation for a future Mars mission. It would worthwhile attributing resources too send cybernetic systems to Mars rather than a human mission. We are not ready yet (the current time frame is in 15yrs from 2015.)
Regardless the moon that may hold xeno-biological/alien type life could be the Jupiter moon Europa.
From Daily Galaxy
“…Flexing of the icy crust above an ocean could create pockets of salty impurities and partially melted areas leading to features seen in spacecraft images.
Favorable environments for the chemistry of life (or even life itself, in microbial form) could exist in areas within Europa’s ice shell that contain salty fluids or around possible hydrothermal systems driven by tidal heating. An ocean rich with chemistry conducive to life could be maintained by a cycle that moves water through the moon’s ice shell, ocean and rocky interior.
Studying Europa’s chemistry – on the surface and within the suspected ocean – is important for understanding its habitability because living things extract energy from their environments via chemical reactions. Interactions between materials from Europa’s surface and those in an ocean environment beneath the ice could produce elements essential for life such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous and sulfur.
Europa’s surface is mostly water ice (H2O), but the surface is bombarded by intense radiation from Jupiter, which can alter the chemistry of the ice. Through this process, the hydrogen and oxygen from water ice can combine with other materials on the surface to create a host of molecules like free oxygen (O2), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2).
If these compounds are finding their way into an ocean as part of an ongoing cycle, they could be used to power the reactions living things depend upon. Meanwhile, cycling of ocean water through minerals in the seafloor could replenish the water with other chemicals that are crucial for life.
How material cycles between the ice, the ocean and the rocky interior is the greatest uncertainty about energy as it relates to Europa’s habitability. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Image credits Flexing of Europa’s icy crust could create partially melted pockets, or even lakes, scattered throughout the moon’s outer shell. Image credit: Britney Schmidt/Dead Pixel VFX/Univ. of Texas at Austin.
Life extracts energy from its environment in order to carry out biological processes like maintaining cellular structures, growing and reproducing. Most living things on Earth’s surface depend (directly or indirectly) on energy supplied by the sun, but there are many organisms that extract their energy from chemical sources like those produced by hydrothermal activity.”