Ancient, and moderately new h2o on Mars
Another week, another post about the increasingly fascinating story of Mars, the Red Planet, and one of the most hyped stories of space exploration in the past several decades. As the story develops, NASA has come up with a strategic paper on how they see a fully independent mission to Mars happening in the future, one that will be completely self-reliant.
This could mark the beginning of a new, awesome age of space colonization, or could in turn become a bust if powerful Earthlings do not get around to funding it. NASA now works with a budget of around 4 billion dollars, which is not nearly enough to expand its’ operations as efficiently as we would like. But, as all this develops, we move towards the key question – did someone say water on Mars?
As with all things science, stuff gets dense very quick. In 2002, we found out there was ice just under the surface of Mars. Then, it was discovered that not only there is ice, but also there are 1.5 billion cubic meters of glaciers under the red sands, which could hypothetically cover the entire surface of the planet with around a meter of water. Up to here, the story of H2O on Mars was impressive. But this April things got real when Nature Geoscience published a paper pretty much saying that according to their analysis, there is running water on the surface of Mars during warm seasons. What running water means for us is that there is a clear possibility that there could have been, and that there could even now be – life on Mars.
The martians are coming?
Why don’t we already know if there is life or not, you may ask. The reason is that we haven’t really started an active search for it yet, given that there is something called Planetary protection, which has the aim of preventing biological containment of the planet. A major concern of scientists is that hardy terrestrial bacteria, so-called extremophiles, could survive the trip to Mars and back, thus potentially contaminating the samples collected, as well as contaminating the source of the samples. This is why we usually use a method of observation and deduction, the so-called Star Trek approach, or by analyzing the surface of the planet, and finding methane spikes and carbon residue, two of the essential stuffs of life. Basically, it is a flat out humorous guessing game.
But, if the conditions of water on the planet are not those of the Don Juan Pond, the saltiest body of water found on Earth, we might have the luck of running into the astroscientists’ wet dream – Nano bacteriaor algae, or even something like the Mollivirus Sibericum, found still viral after 30k years in permafrost!
The general idea is to take a crack at collecting samples of water, and eventually releasing these bodies of water hidden under the planet’s surface, so we might “jumpstart” the process of the formation of an atmosphere by terraforming. Elon Musk has already come up with his nuke-it-from-the-orbit solution to this question, but we believe that the best option is to go there and find those darn Martians, like Arnie did it (without the eye-popping, please!).
You’ve probably expected a Matt Damon/Martian pun, but we run a respectable website here. On that note, I will conclude this entry with an honest proposal to our hard-working friends from NASA.
We admire your efforts in exploring the everlasting darkness that surrounds us. In fact, we salute you good sirs. However, please be advised that we, the people of planet Earth, have a long history of pretty great Sci-Fi movies behind us too. Some of us are avid fans and we are enjoying those flicks on the regular. That being said – please restrain yourself from organizing urgent PR events and announcing revolutionary breakthroughs just to hold up a glass of water in front of everyone. Sure, it is impressive as hell, nice work and all, but you almost gave us a heart-attack. If we’ve learned something from Ridley Scott and James Cameron, it’s that you don’t call out to people in that manner if you are not planning on notifying them about alien forces coming to invade our home planet. Which is obviously not the case.
Your pals, Fists of Heaven
That felt like writing to Santa. Well, keep looking at the sky true believers.