It’s Never too Late to Fulfill Your Childhood Dreams (Issue #34)

Guest Blog by Bob Bruner

Bob Bruner is an amateur scientist that has attended all the Case for Mars conferences given by the Mars Underground in the 1980’s and 1990’s and joined the Mars Society at its founding.  This story is a case of an amateur scientist actually having an impact on NASA decisions for its next big mission to Mars, the Mars2020 rover, by suggesting a specific mineral to cache and return to Earth in the 2020’s.

blog 234 deiviant artThe new year is a time many of us look back on what has been accomplished and look forward to the promises the future holds.  I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and in 1948, when I turned 10, my father gave me a 3-inch diameter reflecting telescope with a cardboard tube with which to observe the stars and planets.  My uncle gave me a box of rocks and minerals of many shapes and colors.  I spent many a summer evening looking through the telescope, mainly at planets like Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars.  I also collected more rocks and minerals to go with my starter collection.  Little did I know how important collecting rocks and minerals would be in the future.

When I went to college, I wanted to be an astronomer, but I didn’t understand calculus, so I switched my major to business, and spent my entire working life in the business world.  I retired in 2001, but I had continued my interest in astronomy, volunteered at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in the Space Sciences Department, and joined the Mars Society.

blog 22 MarsAsteroidImpactWhen Dr. Stephen Benner presented his idea that life must have started on Mars and then been brought to Earth on meteorites,  I really liked his way of “thinking outside the box”.  He said that in order to create RNA, the precursor of DNA, you had to have stabilizing minerals such as boron and molybdenum, which were probably not available on early Earth.  The Mars Society Education Department had a blog on this in September, 2013.  I helped with the blog, and as a result, I was able to get into my first scientific meeting with a poster because Dr. Benner remembered me.  The meeting was the Gordon Origin of Life Conference of 2014 in Galveston, Texas.  My poster was entitled “Meteorites and Minerals associated with the Origin of Life”.  I read a lot about the origin of life and picked the meteorites and minerals I thought would be appropriate.  No publication is allowed after a Gordon conference. It is considered a “starter conference” for new grads, post-docs, etc.

In 2014, I re-packaged the exhibit, expanded it, and applied to the 8th International Mars Conference (only held every few years by NASA).  By a lucky coincidence, this conference specifically asked for a contribution from the Origin of Life community, so I hit it just right.  My poster was on display in the courtyard of Caltech, and I attended along with 650 scientists from all over the world, including those who had been my inspiration for many years. I made it into the ISSOL (International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life) and was published on the conference website.  I made many friends in the Mars scientific community.

blog 34 noaaOne of the theories of the Origin of Life is that life started near hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean in environments known as “Lost City” after that discovery in the Atlantic Ocean.  I met a scientist, Dr. Mike Russell of JPL, at the Gordon conference after his lecture, and felt his ideas had a lot of merit. I felt this same process could have happened on Mars. So when NASA held the 1st landing site meeting for the Mars2020 rover, I sent in the idea in an email to the chairman of the meeting. It  was too late, but I could submit it for  the next meeting. This summer the 2nd Landing Site meeting for the Mars2020 rover was held in Pasadena, California just a few miles from Caltech.  Not only was my idea accepted, but I was allowed 10 minutes on the agenda.  I collected all the minerals involved with the process at Lost City called “serpentinization”, and interviewed all the top scientists who had developed this theory over the last 15 years.  Again I got published on the conference website.  The idea is to cache for return to Earth samples of serpentine, a mineral created by serpentinization to examine it for signs of life.

Bob Bruner blog 34So instead of looking through a telescope to spot Martians, like I was trying to do in 1948, I used my rock-collecting skills to assemble exhibits acceptable to NASA in the 21st Century.  I never dreamed this would happen.  But if one keeps on trying, anything is possible.

Post written by Bob Bruner

 

[Images: Deviant Art, The Economist, NOAA, Bob Bruner, ]

What Does The Mars Society Do? (Issue #33)

By: Nicole Willett

blog 33 aThe latest episode of Neil DeGrasse-Tyson’s Star Talk, featuring, Bill Nye, President of The Planetary Society, Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, and Astrophysicist, Dr. Michael Shara, was chock full of great information and insight.  While watching, my heart ached for our civilization to understand the importance of a manned mission to Mars.  Charles Bolden stated NASA’s plan is to be on Mars around 2030 with the current budget of half of one percent of the US budget, we believe with more resources and cooperation from various countries and private organizations we could be on Mars sooner and possibly cheaper.  A major reason for needing a human touch on Mars is for exactly what Bill Nye stated which is that a human scientist could do in one minute the job that a robot does in a week, it’s about a ratio of 1:10,000.  The problem was stated clearly by Dr. Michael Shara, “Frankly, we are not as brave as we should be.” These statements are extraordinarily important to be shared with the public.  We are not as brave or as curious as we should be. Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of The Mars Society and one of the bravest men I have ever known, says we could be on Mars in ten years with the proper funding.

Shopping bags, MonbiotAren’t you curious? Is curiosity lost to our civilization for the most part?  Some days I think it is.  I often get asked this question, “What does The Mars Society do?”  This question sometimes frustratingly comes from a place of condescension and rarely a place of curiosity.  I have to remind myself that the work we are doing here is to take humans to another planet, an event that would change human history and that most people unfortunately have no concept of why it is so important. The short answer is:  We are an advocacy group to promote the human exploration and settlement of Mars.  Our goal is to educate the public through our Education Department, bring like-minded people together at chapter meetings and our annual conventions, and promote a human mission to Mars via projects and competitions.  Sounds simple right?  Well, not really. You see, people really like the societal pleasures of who is who, who is wearing who, what team are you for, what kind of car do you drive, what do you do for a living???? On and on this goes.  Meanwhile, billions of people are left uninformed of what is really important: Curiosity, knowledge, and exploration.  Instilling curiosity, providing access to true knowledge of scientific facts, and the goal of Mars exploration by humans, is an important part of what we are trying to accomplish.

blog 33 koolfmIt is frustrating for sure, as a teacher of young people, to see that most are much more interested in the latest phone app than the intellectual curiosity for really learning anything.  The way the educational system is set up is flawed and is partially responsible for the noninterest to learn.  People do not enjoy memorizing things in order to take a test.  People want to LEARN.  Only learning can create critical thinking and curiosity, maybe this is the source of the apathy in America.  I encounter some very curious minds, but sadly too few.  Learning takes place with hands on experience and discussions, not workbooks and vocabulary lessons.  We need to have a strong work force of critical thinkers, not robotic followers.   The Apollo 13 Mission was not saved by people that had been able to get the highest SAT score blog 33 nasabecause they memorized a bunch of facts, those brave scientists were able to quickly and critically think and creatively solve a problem and save the lives of three brave men.  The Mars Society is an organization that is involved in many projects that make an environment conducive to learning by hands-on experience and discussions, which lends itself to creativity and critical thinking.  Going to the Moon took about 400,000 people, going to Mars will take many more.  We need strong minded, willful, brave problem solvers to get to Mars.

So, what does The Mars Society do to move this endeavor forward?  Well, with a lot of patience and a group of very dedicated and passionate volunteers.  The Mars Society was founded by Dr. Robert Zubrin in 1998, stemming from the Mars Underground which was started by Dr. Carol Stoker, NASA, Dr. Chris McKay, NASA, and Dr. Penelope Boston.  The Mars Society is involved in many projects, including but not limited to:  holding annual conventions, an Education Department for public outreach, STEM Education Events, Red Planet Pen (an educational blog), Red Planet Radio (podcast), a Speakers Bureau, having two analogue stations named Mars Desert Research Station and Mars Arctic Research Station, the University Rover Challenge and the Youth Rover Challenge.

blog 33 cuaThe Mars Society will convene the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention on the campus of the Catholic University of America from August 13-16, 2015.  The annual four-day event brings together key experts, scientists, journalists and policymakers to discuss the latest news on Mars exploration and efforts to promote a humans-to-Mars mission in the coming years. We have many notable speakers, including Dr. Robert Zubrin, President and Founder of the Mars Society, Apollo astronaut Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt will give a plenary address, Dr. Deborah Bass, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, will discuss the planned exploration mission, Dr. Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, will give a plenary talk about his long-term vision for solar system exploration and the role communications will play in this endeavor, Sam Scimemi, Director for International Space Station (ISS) at NASA Headquarters within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Dr. Pamela G. Conrad, an astrobiologist and mineralogist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Deputy Principal Investigator for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, will talk about the potential habitability of the planet Mars, and many, many more!
blog 33 mdrsThe Mars Society has two analog research stations.  One is the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) and the other is the Mars Arctic Research Station.  Analog Research Stations are laboratories for learning how to live and work on another planet. Each is a prototype of a habitat that will land humans on Mars and serve as their main base for months of exploration in the harsh Martian environment. Such a habitat represents a key element in current human Mars mission planning. Each Station’s centerpiece is a cylindrical habitat, “The Hab,” an 8-meter diameter, two-deck structure mounted on landing struts. Peripheral external structures, some inflatable, may be appended to the hab as well.  College students gain credit by living and working at the MDRS hab for two weeks at a time.

The Mars Society Education Department maintains an educational forum website with resources free to all students, teachers and Mars enthusiasts.  Opportunities for speakers, online or in person, are available to enhance students’ educational experience around the world.  The Speakers Bureau of experienced Mars advocates can be contacted to speak and do a presentation and will either come to you or organize an online event for your group or class.  The website also has an archive of blogs with a vast amount of information about Mars and the spacecraft that have visited the Red Planet.  To enhance all educational materials, The Mars Society has a YouTube Channel that has hundreds of videos of talks from previous conventions.  All of these resources are meant to stimulate minds and allow anyone to learn as much as they can about Mars and what a human mission to Mars entails.

blog 33 urcChuck McMurray, the Mars Society’s Deputy Education Director, launched the Youth Rover Challenge in 2013 which is geared toward middle and high school students.  The rover program consists of two levels of competition to get kids started earlier and also prepare them for participation in the University Rover Challenge held annually at MDRS in Utah.  Grade levels 5 through 12 will be invited to compete in the Youth Rover Challenge.  The University Rover Challenge (URC) was started in 2007 and run by URC director, Kevin Sloan.  It is the world’s premier robotics competition for college students.  Held annually in the desert of southern Utah in the United States, URC challenges student teams to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that will one day work alongside astronauts exploring the Red Planet.

So, what does The Mars Society do?  All of these things and so much more.  We want the world to know the importance of a human mission to Mars.  The reasons are many, but here are a few that can be found in our Founding Declaration:

We must go for the knowledge of Mars.

We must go for the knowledge of Earth. 

We must go for the challenge. 

We must go for the youth. 

We must go for the opportunity. 

We must go for our humanity. 

We must go for the future.

 

Humans to Mars as a bridge to the stars…………..

[Image credits: NASA, Guardian, koolfm, NASA, CUA, TMS, TMS]

The Curious Case for Methane on Mars, methane and active organics discovered on Mars (Issue #32)

 

By:  Nicole Willett

methane molecule 2 drsusanrubinOn December 16, 2014 at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, a panel of scientists working on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover data announced what we have all been waiting decades to hear.  John Grotzinger stated unequivocally, “…there is methane occasionally present in the atmosphere of Mars and there are organics preserved in (…) rocks on Mars.”

Why is this important?  All life on Earth that we have discovered so far is carbon based, aka organic.  Carbon is found in the DNA of all life forms on Earth.  Carbon can bind with many other elements to form thousands of molecules that are involved in biological processes.  Needless to say, finding organics and methane is a game changer for all of science, from astronomy to zoology.  Organics in general refer to molecules that are often found as components of life.  We know from studying life forms on Earth that methane is a common organic molecule that is a waste product of bacteria and macro organisms.  In fact approximately 90% of Earth’s methane has a biological origin.  However, about 10% of methane on Earth is a result of geological activity.  According to author Jeffrey Bennett from the University of Colorado, Boulder, “The amount of methane in the atmosphere appears to vary regionally across Mars, and also seems to vary with the Martian seasons.  This has led some scientists to favor a biological origin (…)if the source is volcanic (…) the amount of (…)heat necessary for methane release [could] be sufficient to maintain pockets of liquid water underground.”  Pockets of liquid water would be conducive to life.

blog 32 eath marsThe Earth and Mars have many similarities including a 24 hour and 24 hour 37 minute day respectively, a similar axial tilt causing seasons to occur, a rocky surface with many of the same types of rocks and minerals (which may be used as a source of energy), volcanic activity and hydrothermal vents past and/or present, water that is/was fresh, salty, acidic, and/or basic.  Now and perhaps most important of all, organic matter and methane.  In addition to the aforementioned facts, the fleet of rovers and orbiters that have arrived at Mars have proven an environment conducive to microorganisms existed and may currently exist on the Red Planet.   We know this thanks to the many spacecraft that have visited Mars and sent back ample amounts of data.

blog 32 natgeo3The Viking missions were sent to Mars in the mid 1970’s.  They carried a variety of scientific instruments.  Some of them sampled the atmosphere and some examined the regolith.  The results of these experiments have been studied repeatedly since they were performed.  The Labeled Release Experiment, designed by Dr. Gil Levin, made a controversial and still contested discovery of life on Mars.  Viking also discovered methane at 10.5 parts per billion (ppb) in 1976.  It seems both of these discoveries were discounted over the past four decades.

While utilizing the NASA Infrared Telescope in Hawaii, Michael Mumma, of NASA Goddard, observed methane using ground based instrumentation in 2003.  When he followed up the observations in 2006, the methane had vanished.  Some scientists have stated that is indicative of a seasonal plume.  According to NASA’s astrobiology website Mumma and his team observed 20-60 ppb of methane near the poles and up to 250 ppb near the equator.  It is interesting to note that the levels of methane are significantly higher near the equator where the temperature is higher and possibly more conducive to life.

Concentrations_of_methane_on_Mars esaA decade ago the European Space Agency (ESA) announced they had discovered plumes of seasonal methane on Mars.  In March of 2004, ESA announced that the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer on Mars Express detected about 10 ppb of methane in the Martian atmosphere.  A spectrometer is a device that “looks” at a sample of something, in this case atmospheric gases, and takes reading(s) to determine what molecules make up the sample being observed.  A computer generated graph of some type is then read by scientists to analyze the spectral data.

Although ESA and NASA themselves had previously detected methane on Mars, it was important to for NASA to continue the search, using the MSL Curiosity, on the ground in order to again verify the results.  The public may get frustrated with the continuous “discoveries” of methane, but science is always retesting results to essentially try to “disprove” itself in order to make sure the facts are real.  The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars in August of 2012.  It seemed that almost as soon as the Curiosity Rover started exploring her new home on Mars she discovered a dry riverbed where fresh water once flowed in Gale crater.  When she drilled into the rock dubbed “John Klein” scientists realized that the rock contained what biologists call CHNOPS. That acronym stands for Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, and Sulfur. Those are the six elements needed for all life on Earth to exist.  Another discovery were molecules that included carbon which scientists called “simple organics”.  The most recent and most important discovery includes more complex organic molecules than previously discovered, such as methane and chlorobenzene.  We know Mars is enriched with all of the same chemicals to make life that the Earth has.  This latest and greatest discovery puts to rest the long debate about whether Mars has organics.  Some scientists and laymen have been vehemently denying that it is possible.  For the community of “believers” in Martian organics, we feel Methane SAM graph nasa 2vindicated.

The amount of methane reported over the past forty years on the Red Planet ranges from 5-250 ppb from a variety of sources, NASA, ESA, orbiters, rovers, and ground based Earth telescopes.  Many peer reviewed scientific journal articles have been published regarding Martian methane and the possible explanations for its existence.  Some of the potential sources of methane include the presence of life, volcanoes, hydrothermal vents, and several other geological processes.  Methane breaks up and only has a lifespan of several decades to 300 years, which is a short time on a planetary scale. It then breaks down into water and carbon dioxide.  That being said, since methane is present on Mars, it must be getting replenished biologically or geologically currently.

Over the last few decades scientists have discovered amino acids in comets and meteorites, which we know slam into planets, so it is common sense to see that whether Mars originally had organics or not that organics would have landed there sometime in the last 4.5 billion years.  In 2012 it was announced that even Mercury has organics on its surface.  The moon Enceladus, orbiting Saturn, has organics spewing out of the ice covered surface from the salty ocean below.  It seems that everywhere we look we find organics.  We must ask ourselves, how easy is it to form organics and life?  Is life everywhere?

Mars Society Logo (High quality)“[A] striking aspect of the Curiosity discovery is that the concentration of methane detected varies sharply over time. That can only be the case if the source of the methane is locally concentrated, as a globally spread source could not cause such sharp variations. Thus, there may be a patch of ground relatively close to Curiosity which is the source of the emissions, and, therefore, a prime target to drill in an attempt to find subsurface life. Similar biologically suspect spots may well exist elsewhere. We need to locate such spots, and then send human explorers to drill and find out what lies beneath,” states Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society.

~Humans to Mars as a bridge to the stars

[Images: drsusanrubin.com, NASA, NatGeo, ESA, NASA, TMS]

Note: The article snip above is from the Jan 1977 National Geographic magazine.  Below are the next few paragraphs.

blog 32 natgeo4blog 32 NatGeo1blog 32 Natgeo2

3-D Printing on Mars (Issue #30)

3-D Printing on Mars

blog 30 gizmodo com3-D Printing, what is it and what is all of the hubbub? A very simple analogy of 3-D printing would be if you imagine a regular printer, printing ink onto paper and going back and forth layering the ink on the paper thousands of times until you build up a three dimensional object. When a 3-D printer is in action, it may use a variety of different types of “ink”, including types of plastic, cement, and just about any material that has a liquid viscosity that later dries and hardens. This technology is widely considered to be a game changer for everything from daily life to manufacturing and construction. Almost anything can be printed with the correct type of printer and “ink”. For example, if you are missing a vital piece of plastic for your washing machine, as long as you can acquire a digital copy, by scanning the object or downloading it, you can send that information to the printer and voilà, your washer is now easy to fix. A variety of different types of three dimensional printing machines are now available. The prices vary dramatically. Some home use printers are as inexpensive as $300. Commercial printers can range from $10,000 to $20,000.

The public has been inundated with news regarding humans to Mars over the past couple of years. So many organizations are planning trips to Mars that it can be confusing.   See blog #25, The Many Plans for Mars. However, this can be good news for everyone. The more awareness that is being raised, the more education will be sought. This situation will lend itself to one or more of these organizations being successful. The implications for the human exploration and settlement of Mars are immense. Humanity will change in a way that cannot be undone. We will never be the same once we are an interplanetary species.

blog 30 3d-printed-mars-baseDr. Robert Zubrin, President of The Mars Society, has stated that we must use the resources that are available to us on the Red Planet in order to survive and thrive. This is extremely important since every pound of material we launch from Earth will be very expensive, approximately $50,000. So we must live off the land, as much as we possibly can in order to reduce the cost of the mission. 3-D printers can use the Martian soil to print homes, buildings for humans to live and work in, and other essential infrastructure for a society. With the correct additives to the soil and water, which is already present in the soil, 3-D printing should be a breeze on Mars.

A variety of sizes and types of 3-D printers can be used on Mars. Equipment, furniture, and other daily essentials can be printed from the resources already present on the Red Planet. If your 3-D printer needs a part, you can print it! This technology will help make human settlement on Mars much more doable. With so many organizations and companies have plans to send humans to Mars to live permanently, we must utilize all of the technology available to make the transition from Earthling to Martian as simple as possible.

Video link from The Science Channel about 3-D printing on Mars:

blog 30 sci

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4IbS42D8jk

[Images: gizmodo.com, space.com]

 

Life on Mars (Issue #29)

by: Nicole Willett

pia16453-43Throughout history, humans have looked at Mars in wonder and have made up myths, legends and science fiction stories about civilizations. When Mariner flew by Mars in 1965 hopes for finding a thriving civilization on the Red Planet were quickly dashed by the 22 postage stamp sized images that slowly trickled back to Earth. The images showed a barren, rocky terrain. For many though, their passion of finding out more details kept the interest in finding life on Mars alive. In 1976 a life detecting experiment invented by Dr. Gil Levin was sent on the Viking I and II Landers to investigate whether microbial life existed in the soil on Mars.

Viking LRLevin named his experiment Gulliver, but it was renamed by NASA to the Labeled Release (LR) experiment.  Viking I and Viking II, which were 4,000 miles away from each other, both carried the LR. A brief summary of the LR is as follows; first a sample of Martian soil is scooped up and sent into a thimble-sized chamber, then a tiny drop of nutrient containing radioactive 14C is squirted onto the soil sample, and, if microorganisms are present, they will consume the nutrient and then give off radioactive gas.  When the LR was performed on the surface of Mars, after the first squirt of nutrient was added onto the soil gas immediately began to come off.  A spike was seen on the graph tracing the gas, with a growing curve indicating a positive result for life. The gas that was released by this experiment kept slowly evolving for the entire seven days the LR was run. In order to verify the results a control experiment had been designed by NASA. The control was LR2 graphdesigned to determine whether the result was chemical or biological. The control had a negative result indicating thepositive response was from life. This is because chemistry could not “die” from the modest heat imposed by the control experiment, but a living organism could. Since the control came back negative and the LR was positive, it can be ascertained that there is life on Mars. Thus the LR detected life on Mars according to the criteria set by the Viking team and NASA. Viking I and II both had a positive result for life with the LR experiment. Several different life detecting or life-related experiments were in the payload of Viking. Each one had different degree of sensitivity. The LR was the only test that was positive for life, but it was much more sensitive than the others. The LR was able to detect as few as 20 bacterial cells in its development tests.  The other experiments were orders of magnitude less sensitive which easily explains why they were negative versus the positive results of the LR.

LR imageThe Gas Exchange (GEX) and the Pyrolytic Release Experiment (PR), the other life detections tests, failed to detect life in the soils of Mars.  When another experiment failed to find any organic matter in the Martian soil, NASA made a consensus that there was no life on the Red Planet. However, science does not work by consensus. Science is supposed to review any postitive or indicative results and retest them. That is the scientific method every third grader in America learns. Scientists must retest their experiment to get accurate results. If one out of three tests is positive, then you must rerun the positive experiment to get an accurate result. What scientists should not do is stop sending life detection experiments to Mars because their results are deemed ambiguous. NASA has refused to send any other life detection experiments to Mars since then. That is not science. Each time Levin has proposed a new life detection experiment to go to Mars, he has been denied. NASA keeps stating that they are looking for habitats that might have supported life long ago.  Nest they say they will look for “biosignatures” of long extinct life. If we had the technology to search for existing life on Mars in 1976, what is stopping us from looking for exixting life on Mars now? We have learned so much more about the Red Planet since then, it should be a slam dunk to send a convincing life detection device to Mars.

Each successive mission to Mars has discovered that Mars definitely has two things, rocks and water. The Viking missions (1976), the Pathfinder and Sojourner Rover (1997), Spirit (2004-2010) and Opportunity Rovers (2004-currently operational), Phoenix Lander (2008), and Curiosity (2012-currently operational) have all confirmed many times over that there are water and rocks on Mars. This has taken nearly 40 years to accomplish, even though we acquired that information with the Viking missions.  The next rover, with a working name of Mars 2020, is to be very similar to Curiosity with the addition of a cache to store rock samples in. This cache will be stored on Mars until a later date when another rover or humans (as a NASA scientists stated tongue and cheek) will launch it back to Earth, as a sample return, for further study. But how do they know any Martian life will survive the six to nine-month trip to Earth when we don’t know what they eat, breathe or what environment they need?  And, if they do survive, might they be harmful?  Bad idea!  According to MIT planetary scientist, Dr. Ben Weiss, about one ton per year of Martian meteorites fall to Earth, which over time equals billions of tons of rocks from Mars have arrived on Earth. He states, as do others, “It is possible we are Martians.” Since that is the case, what is the purpose of sending another rover very similar to Curiosity to blog 22 MarsAsteroidImpactMars to store a cache of rocks on the surface for an unknown amount of time?

This is a perplexing set of facts. So many issues arise with this plan. Such as, contamination upon reentry, time of the cache sitting on the surface of Mars, and lack of foresight and appropriate planning. According to Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society, we get samples of rocks from Mars all the time. We have many meteorites from Mars in labs being studied currently. The mission that should be funded is the Icebreaker Life mission. This mission will have a one meter long drill that will peer below the surface of Mars specifically searching for conclusive evidence of life. (see Issue # 21 for more details) In an email from Dr. Chris McKay he stated, “We are currently working on the Icebreaker mission and we will be proposing it to the current round of Discovery missions. We expect proposals due Dec 2014. We will aim for a 2018 launch.” This is a much more reasonable plan and should have been funded years ago.

Since the controversial Viking results, many scientific journal articles have been published supporting the results while others have attempted to discredit them. Many new experiments have been developed that have supported the LR positive results. At this point it may be a matter of what you choose to believe regarding the LR results. However, science is true whether or not you believe it. I believe there is life on Mars. All of the necessary ingredients are on Mars for life to exist. Mars has ample amounts of water, minerals, and other chemical nutrients in the soil. Habitability has been established and reestablished. The question is, “Do we want to find life on Mars?” It depends who you ask.

 

A special thank you to Dr. Gil Levin for his years of dedication and hard work on this subject and for his generous time and assistance with this blog.

[Images: NASA, Levin, Astrobio.net]