Could this data hold the key to life on Mars?


NASA seeks new ways to analyze massive spectral data sets to determine if there is alien life on Mars.For those who believe that data is life, here’s an opportunity to use data to potentially discover life on another planet.NASA is looking for new solutions to analyze spectral data from Mars samples that could help us understand whether the red Planet ever supported life.For years, it was assumed that the environmental conditions needed to support life once existed on Mars, raising an obvious question: But did they?Part of the answer may lie in samples analyzed by Mars rovers as well as land-based instruments.While no Martian samples have yet been brought back to Earth (a sample return mission has been proposed for 2026), sensors on the Rover have captured extensive data sets.But finding ancient life is not quite like digging up fossils.Instead, scientists are looking for volatiles and organic compounds that might be signs of life.Part of the work was done by running experiments on ground samples to verify the interpretation.All in all, this leads to a lot of data.In search of help, NASA once again turned to crowdsourcing solutions.The agency has been using this strategy with interesting results, ranging from crowdsourcing solutions to powering the moon to turning space waste into useful materials.””This is an interesting research question where machine learning tools can have a real impact on how we learn more about our place in the universe,” says Greg Lipstein, head of DrivenData, who is helping to tackle the challenge.This is a great opportunity to harness the collective wisdom and enthusiasm of the data community to advance open science.Called NASA: Mars Spectrometry, Detect Evidence for Past Life, the competition is jointly managed by DrivenData, which is responsible for the online machine learning challenge, and HeroX, a crowdsourcing platform.Offering a $30,000 prize, the goal of the competition is to find ways to automatically help analyze and interpret mass spectrometry data related to Mars exploration to look for potential signs of past life.Specifically, participants need to propose methods for automatically analyzing escape gas analysis (EGA) data from simulated Mars samples to find certain compound families of scientific interest.””It’s exciting to think that there could be clues to past life on Mars,” said HeroX CEO Kal K. Sahota.These challenges are so inspiring as we search for evidence of alien life.

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