Saturday, February 26, 2005
Little Green Men.. Life On Mars?
It’s been a little over a decade since I came across the scientific TV blockbuster “Cosmos” and its human star Carl Sagan; whose enthusiasm for the universe and engaging screen presence awakened the astronomer in me. Ever since I’ve been fascinated by the vastness & wonder of space, the future of space travel and the possibility of extraterrestrial life forms. It’s been a very long time since I first saw Mars as a little red dot on my humble telescope. The intensive scrutiny of the red planet and the vast assortment of spacecrafts currently exploring it was an idea far fetched for me back then. Needless to say that with orbiters scanning the Martian landscape and the Spirit and Opportunity rovers have assembled what might be described as a MASSIVE FLOOD OF SCIENTIFIC DATA. The discovery of jarosite and other mineral salts on a rocky outcropping by one of NASA’s rovers “Opportunity”, and the evidence of large blocks of water ice just beneath the Martian surface by a European space probe contributed to a recent joint statement by Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of the NASA Ames Research Center claiming they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on the red planet, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water. Although their findings lacks direct proof of life on Mars, the methane signatures and signs of possible biological activity similar to those recently discovered in caves near Rio Tinto River (Called so because of its reddish tint, the product of iron being dissolved in its highly acidic water), can only make you wonder if life does exist over there. In response, NASA issued a statement calling the reports incorrect: “NASA does not have any observational data from any current Mars missions that supports this claim. The work by the scientists mentioned in the reports cannot be used to directly infer anything about life on Mars, but may help formulate the strategy for how to search for martian life. Their research concerns extreme environments on Earth as analogs of possible environments on Mars. No research paper has been submitted by them to any scientific journal asserting martian life.” Makes you wonder, ey? If life exists elsewhere it would most probably obliterate the GOD theory, GOD didn’t mention making aliens did he or she for that matter? I look forward to reading the Rio Tinto research, and its implications for present life on Mars.