Friday Hack Chat: Is There Life On Mars?

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise a kid. In fact, it’s cold as hell. There’s no one there to raise them if you did, or is there? Is there life on Mars? That’s the question NASA has been trying to answer for the last forty years, and with the new Mars rover, we might get closer to an answer. For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking with the people responsible for some interesting instruments flying on the Mars 2020 rover.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat will be [Matteo Borri], an Italian engineer who’s been living in the US for the better part of a decade now. He’s had various projects ranging from robotics — including a BattleBot — AI, and aerospace. [Matteo] is also one of the engineers behind the Vampire Charger, a winner in the Power Harvesting Module Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize.

Right now, [Matteo] is working on an interesting project that’s going to fly on the next Mars rover. He’s developed a chlorophyll spectroscope for NASA and the Mars Society. This week, [Matteo] is going to share the details of how this device works and how it was developed.

During this Hack Chat, we’re going to be discussing various technology that’s going into the search for life on Mars and elsewhere in the galaxy such as:

  • Chlorophyll detection
  • Mars Rovers
  • Various other hardware hacks

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Hacking with Fire event page and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.


Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Friday, October 5th, at noon, Pacific time. We have some amazing time conversion technology.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

14 thoughts on “Friday Hack Chat: Is There Life On Mars?

  1. Are there geese that speak English on Earth? You can’t prove that there are none. Same for life on Mars. And what to do if you find some? Invoke a Prime Directive you can’t enforce?

    1. Agreed on the logic (you cannot proof a “does not exist”).
      However, Prime-Directive probably isn’t called for, since “life” does not necessarily involve being sentient. For that matter, it does not even involve intelligence-whatever-that-is (look at people on the interwebs, they’re most likely alive, but intelligent?)

      1. Strictly and pedantically speaking we could actually prove that life does not exist on mars. Since the volume it inhabits is finite, and has a finite amount of mass we could in theory actually examine every bit of it. This would likely involve destructively sampling every bit of it and removing it from the vicinity of mars once we’ve determined that bit does not have life on it. Eventually we’ll either find life or no longer have a mars to examine. At that point we could definitively say that mars did not have life on it. That’s entirely unpractical and likely not doable without spending such a large amount of energy and time that it’s pointless to talk about though.

    1. Life on Mars?
      David Bowie
      It’s a God-awful small affair
      To the girl with the mousy hair
      But her mummy is yelling no
      And her daddy has told her to go
      But her friend is nowhere to be seen
      Now she walks through her sunken dream
      To the seat with the clearest view
      And she’s hooked to the silver screen
      But the film is a saddening bore
      For she’s lived it ten times or more
      She could spit in the eyes of fools
      As they ask her to focus on
      Sailors fighting in the dance hall
      Oh man, look at those cavemen go
      It’s the freakiest show
      Take a look at the lawman
      Beating up the wrong guy
      Oh man, wonder if he’ll ever know
      He’s in the best selling show
      Is there life on Mars?
      It’s on America’s tortured brow
      That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow
      Now the workers have struck for fame
      ‘Cause Lennon’s…

  2. According to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, the answer to Hackaday’s headline question is, “No.”

    That’s the same answer coming out of other NASA investigations for the last forty years.

    Whiile you can’t prove conclusively Martian life doesn’t exist, using Bayesian statistics the results from previous investigations keep decreasing the probability value.

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