Is there life on Mars? Ministers say finding out is 'at the core of our industrial strategy' and give scientists £3m to fund research

Oliver Gill
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ESA's Mars Express Returns Images Of Echus Chasma
Mars is approximately 54.6m kilometres away from the earth at its closest point in the orbit (Source: Getty)

Ministers have today handed a bunch of space boffins £3m to try and find out if there really is life on Mars.

The department of business, energy and industrial strategy (Beis) provided the money to 17 scientists, which are looking into "past and present life on Mars" as well as the presence of water and other gases on the planet.

The money will also be used to examine the polar regions of the Moon.

Science minister Jo Johnson said the research was "at the core of our industrial strategy".

He added:

This government funding will play a vital role in ensuring UK academics can continue to study the secrets of our solar system, from the polar regions of the Moon to the potential of life on Mars.

Read more: Elon Musk reckons he can help humans reach Mars and the moon by 2024

A further £230,000 of funding has been awarded to studies into experiments that could be built and flown to the International Space Station (ISS). These could support future human exploration of space, the government said.

British astronaut Tim Peake was involved in many experiments during his sixth-month mission on the ISS from December 2015 to June 2016, including several with contributions from UK scientists.

The additional funding has been awarded to the UK microgravity and space environments community. Four proposals have been funded, which will study concepts and designs for experiments delivering high-quality science on the ISS as part of a national science programme.

Read more: Life on Mars? Nasa scientists discover nitrogen on Red Planet

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