I don’t care that it’s going to be difficult to dig deep enough to verify if this is the case, given Mars’ harsh climate. We NEED to verify or falsify this. We can’t go around for the next twenty years saying “well, there’s MAYBE life on Mars”, we need to know for sure, ASAP, because it changes everything. If life evolved (or was germinated, for those of you who believe in panspermia) right in our backyard, then that’s proof positive it’s gotta be out in the rest of the galaxy, and the rest of the universe as well, because there’s a shitload of stars out there, and chances are a shitload of them can support life. We may well be one amongst thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of sentient life-forms in this galaxy — remember, there are two hundred billion stars in our own galaxy alone, and we’re finding exoplanets daily.
Recent experiments in creating chemicals that self-replicate, compete for resources, and are subject to natural selection, have proven that a critical step in the evolutionary abiogenesis theory (or the “primordial ooze” theory for laymen, and that theory that people mistake for the Theory of Evolution all too often) is quite possible. Proof that pre-biotic life even managed to form on Mars, if verified, would suggest that this universe may well be teeming with instances of life having grown from “nothing” (by which I mean, having grown from chemicals with the potential to become self-replicating if arranged correctly by chance — not really “nothing” as the creationists suggest), and the only thing that makes this planet unique amongst our neighbors is not only that we had the right chemical soup to start the endless chain reaction that is biology, but that we’ve also had long enough for life to fester on this planet to get to the point where we’re sentient and curious about the nature of the universe.
For those who say science strips away all the wonder of the universe, by removing magical sky-men who made us in his evidently flawed image, they’re missing the bigger picture. And that bigger picture is the universe itself, in all its splendour. There’s only one way to find the truth behind this universe — and that’s empirically.