Big Questions for MAVEN
Microbial life forms have been discovered on Earth that can survive and even thrive at extremes of high and low temperature and pressure, and in conditions of acidity, salinity, alkalinity, and concentrations of heavy metals that would have been regarded as lethal just a few years ago. These discoveries include the wide diversity of life near sea–floor hydrothermal vent systems, where some organisms live essentially on chemical energy in the absence of sunlight. Similar environments may be present elsewhere in the Solar System.
For the first time in human history we know of planets around other stars and many of those other planetary systems look quite different from our own. Many have a planet like Jupiter, or even bigger, nearest to the Sun. If we are to understand why this is the case, and how likely it is that there are Earth-like planets elsewhere, we need to better understand how planets form.