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Life On Mars — One Small Step For Mankind

YOWUSA.COM, 01-January-02
Steve Russell

Life On Mars - One Small Step For Mankind Scientists continue to discover new forms of life on Earth, and it is helping them to realize that there most certainly is life on other planets like Europa and Mars. Three critical new discoveries about Mars have reached the public in the last few months, and they have collectively turned NASA's models of Mars upside-down because the true nature of Mars is changing our understanding of life forever.  But according to whom?   

NASA's recent and unexpected discoveries about Mars have highlighted the important fact that we should not accept NASA's thoughts on matter as the final say.  Like politicians and the media, they also filter new data through old paradigms and notions.   

Can we wait for NASA to take baby steps as it tries to reconcile new facts with old theories?  Not if these new discoveries are to bring fresh hope for a new understanding of life on Mars, and to hopefully spur a new manned space exploration program.  But the impetus for a new manned space exploration program may come as the result of discoveries here on Earth!

Your dot com for Africa, September 25, 2001
Extremophiles, new forms of life in Africa

The study of extremophiles is fairly new, but already it is yielding new knowledge that appears to have enormous potential.  Extremophiles are essentially microbes that live where nothing ought to be able to live, according to our old paradigms.  But they do live, and how they do that is what has scientists excited.

Extremophiles offer ramifications so profound for life on other planets, that the government recently convened a special meeting to discuss the possibilities.

SpaceRef.Com, July 12, 2001
Hearing Charter "Life in the universe" hearings before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

On Thursday, July 12, 2001 at 10:00 am, in Room 2318 Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will hold a hearing Life in the Universe on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space science and astrobiology programs as well as a leading private, non-profit endeavor, the SETI Institute's Phoenix Program.  The hearing will provide Committee members with the opportunity to review ongoing efforts to search for life elsewhere in the universe.

Astrobiology is the study of life on other planets using scientific experience from the observation of life's evolution on the Earth.  The recent discovery of terrestrial life forms known as "extremophiles" demonstrates that life can evolve and thrive in extreme climates and environments, such as underground, undersea, and in caves.  These discoveries have lead researches to revise their understanding of the minimal requirements (i.e., liquid water, existence of carbon, geological heating and radiation shielding) necessary to sustain life.

As we begin to learn more about these extremophiles, we are realizing just how wide reaching their abilities to survive extend beyond our own planet!

Life Surrounds Us

Two extremophiles called Deinococcus radiodurans and Sulfolobus shibatae could be responsible for Europa's reddish tinge.

EuropaNew Scientist
Bacterial explanation for Europa's rosy glow

The red tinge of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, could be caused by frozen bits of bacteria.  Their presence would also help explain Europa's mysterious infrared signal. 

It is also worth remembering that scientists have simulated a Mars environment and discovered that life flourished favourably. 

Seattle Times, June 2, 1999
Bacteria thrive on simulated Mars

CHICAGO An exotic Earth bacterium thrives in laboratory conditions that imitate the environment of Mars, raising fresh hope that the red planet may harbor life, or at least did so in the past, a researcher says.

Life should never be underestimated and always be given the benefit of the doubt, as we are continually being reminded here on Earth.

Aliens Amongst Us

Our current outlook of alien life was well characterized in the testimony of Neil deGrasse Tyson from the American Museum of Natural History at the governments "Life in the Universe" hearings.

SpaceRef.Com, July 11, 2001
Testimony of Neil deGrasse Tyson: "Life in the Universe" hearings before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

Many generations of thinkers, both religious and scientific, have been led astray by anthropocentric assumptions, while others were simply led astray by ignorance.  In the absence of dogma and data, history tells us that it's prudent to be guided by the notion that we are not special, which is generally known as the Copernican principle.

Life is so abundant and bizarre, that we are continually discovering new forms of it, both large and small right under our noses.

BBC News, December 21, 2001
"Mystery" squid delights scientists

“Mystery” squidA new and bizarre type of squid has been reported by marine biologists. 

The cephalopod, which has spidery, seven-metre-long (20 feet) arms, is detailed in the journal Science. 

The researchers behind the discovery say the find indicates how little we know about life in the Earth's largest ecosystem.

Jack Farmer from the Arizona State University also recognizes the continuing rise in our understanding and testified for this at the governments "Life in the Universe" hearings.

SpaceRef.Com, July 12, 2001
Testimony of Jack D. Farmer: "Life in the Universe" hearings before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

As our methods of exploration and observation have improved, life's environmental limits have continued to expand.  And we have not yet reached the limits!  More recently it was discovered that life also thrives in deep subsurface environments where interactions between water and rock yield available energy (e.g. Gold, 1992; Fredrickson and Onstott, 1996).  Also, we now think that Lake Vostoc, a subglacial lake lying deep beneath the Antarctic ice cap, may harbor a microbial ecosystem.

Given the abundance of life here on Earth, and the new possibilities extremophiles provide, life on other planets has never looked so good.  If we are to find signs of life on these other planets, we must understand how extremely cold environments can harbor life, as the majority of space environments are below freezing. 

That is why NASA has been focused on microbes from places like Lake Vostok in Antarctica.  Their groundbreaking research has been finding aliens on Earth as far back as early 1998.>>

Science @ NASA, March 13, 1998
Exotic-looking microbes turn up in ancient Antarctic ice

"We've found some really bizarre things things that we've never seen before," said Richard Hoover of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.  Hoover and Dr. S.S. Abyzov of the Russian Academy of Sciences have been examining deep ice core samples from the Vostok Station about 1,000 km (620 miles) from the South Pole.

"We're exploring a new world," Hoover said.  "Until we get a lot more experience, we're going to see brand new things all the time."

These few examples demonstrate the potential possibilities of finding life elsewhere in or solar system. 

Given the ever-increasing chances of finding life on other planets, our primary focus should be on our closest neighbour that holds the key to our species survival.  Now more than ever, the answers on Mars are beginning to reveal themselves. 

Mars Erosion

There is a lot of data now reaching the public concerning the planet Mars.  Once you get passed NASA's hype and spin, evidence for life existing this very day keeps getting better. 

The first important piece of new information is that the carbon dioxide ice caps are rapidly eroding from the poles. NASA is claiming that this is causing temperatures to rise and the atmospheric density to increase.

Mars Erosion 1999     Mars Erosion 2001


CNN, December 11, 2001
Study: Carbon dioxide ice caps eroding on Mars

WASHINGTON (AP) Vast fields of carbon dioxide ice are eroding from the poles of Mars, suggesting that the climate of the Red Planet is warming and the atmosphere is becoming slightly more dense.

As the CO2 ice erodes, it adds carbon dioxide to the Martian atmosphere, causing the "air" to get thicker over time.  This would enable the planet to hold more of the sun's heat and, perhaps, eventually warm the whole planet enough for water to return to the Martian surface.

"It is eroding away at a rapid pace and is going to continue to do that," said Caplinger. "This is not a seasonal change."

Some experts suggested that any speculation about a Martian climate change is premature.

"This is a really neat observation," said Allan H. Treiman of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.  But he said the pictures span a time too short to make predictions about permanent changes in the Mars climate.

Treiman is correct. According to NASA press releases, these statements and findings are based on a meager handful of data obtained on October 1999 and August 2001.  The August images that NASA uses to demonstrate the significant erosion were taken after the global super storm that occurred on June 27, 2001.  This simple dust storm rapidly became a global catastrophe, raising temperatures by a whopping 30 degrees Celsius.  Such an event has not been observed on Mars since the Mariner 9 spacecraft arrived in 1971. 

Statements like "This is not a seasonal change" coming from NASA under such conditions are more to do with hype and publicity than real science. 

The Bottom Line

  1. Significant temperature increases on Mars are more likely to be a result of the recent global super storm, not defrosting poles.
  2. Erosion of polar caps is a result of this dramatic temperature increase, not a regular seasonal change.
  3. These higher temperatures are favorable conditions for life.

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