A True Scientific Milestone
Amidst all the chatter and news stories about who said what in the Presidential race and how SUVs have become undesirable, there was a story last week that will be one that 2008 will be remembered for, at least in the scientific community. NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander found ice on Mars!!
As long as humanity has known about the solar system there has been conjecture as to whether there was life anywhere else. Mars has always been the prime suspect and has led to many books, movies and one famous radio event about Martians. Most of the time such life forms have been presented as strange angry creatures that attack earth as we humans have trouble thinking other wise. Those of us who believe in the statistical inevitability of life elsewhere have waited for concrete evidence.
The discovery of water on Mars does not suggest that there has or is life on Mars. We do currently believe however that water is essential for the existence of life. We now know, conclusively for the first time that water exists on another planet. That is an incredible discovery. It is a first. Water is not unique to earth.
In an earlier column here I discussed the fact that scientists found another sun and planetary system that is similar to ours. I also suggested in another column that perhaps the definition of life should be expanded as we search for it in space. The fact that â€˜life’ should be narrowly defined by earthly terms struck me as planetary provincialism. I still believe that there could be life forms elsewhere that are beyond our current definitions of life.
All that being said, it is essential that we fully acknowledge the discovery of ice on Mars. It is a true scientific milestone. Congratulations to all those scientists and engineers who have created the Phoenix and all the wonder it is now providing us. Bravo!