The planet Mars is a focus for numerous life search missions. As a near neighbour to Earth and with evidence of similar conditions in its early history, contemporaneous with the origin of life on Earth, there is a reasonable possibility of finding evidence for alien life on the red planet. With a whole planet to choose from and only a limited number of in situ analyses possible, the selection of samples to analyse is crucial. Fortunately, clues from analogues on Earth can provide effective guidance for sample choice. The harsh environment of Mars suggests that fine-grained sediments with features suggestive of past liquid water are the most likely to host organic records of past life. Also, with high doses of radiation experienced at the surface, digging deep will increase the probabilities of success for detecting carbon-based records. Past and current in situ missions to Mars are experiencing problems with unexpected amounts of aggressive salts on the planet surface, but the future holds the potential for returning samples of Mars to Earth where multiple sophisticated techniques can be employed to reveal the biochemical secrets of the red planet.

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