Space Exploration Alliance Blitz (Issue #11)

Guest Blog by Kerri Beauchesne
A Call to Action!  Join the 2013 SEA Legislative Blitz
Sunday, February 24 – Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
blog 11 capitol parabolic arc comThe United States and the former Soviet Union began sending spacecraft to Mars in the 1960s. Although both nations experienced failures in the early days, success rates since have improved dramatically, resulting in a large store of information about Mars’ atmosphere, gravity, surface, chemical composition, and, most importantly, water. Today, Mars is a busy planet, hosting three active orbiters (Mars OdysseyMars Express and Mars Reconnaissance) and two operational rovers (Opportunity and Curiosity).  Future NASA and joint missions include MAVENExoMars and InSight.

Unfortunately, despite these successes, we have begun losing important ground. For example, in the 2009 Mars Exploration Joint Initiative, NASA was to collaborate with the European Space Agency on astro-biological research, delivering an orbiter, two landers, and a rover to Mars between 2016 and 2018. When the Obama administration announced its 2013 budget, however, the program was canceled and the funding redirected to bolster the dramatically over-budget James Webb Space Telescope. Since the U.S. withdrew from the joint initiative, the ESA has reorganized and is now working with the Russian Federal Space Agency on the project.blog 11 explore mars org

Although MAVEN is close enough to launch to be considered a done deal, funding for InSight could be in danger if NASA’s budget is cut too deeply this year. And with such shaky funding prospects for unmanned missions, the outlook for manned missions is bleak indeed.

The future of America’s space program depends largely on funding from Congress. But with concerns over the pending U.S. budget crisis, many members of Congress are reticent to allocate money for programs they deem frivolous or unlikely to produce a substantial return on investment. Also, the idea of manned missions to Mars doesn’t enjoy the same widespread public enthusiasm at this stage as the Moon race in the 1960s.

So what can we do to persuade members of Congress to support policies and funding favorable to space exploration? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Decision-makers on Capitol Hill need to know that their constituents do support a strong and sustainable space program. But they receive letters, emails, and online petitions by the thousands, on every imaginable topic. In-person, pre-scheduled meetings hold the greatest potential for making an impact on individual members of Congress.
  • Not every member of Congress is well-informed about the benefits of a robust space program. Go in armed with clear talking points that a layman can understand.
  • They need compelling reasons for supporting specific missions in space, beyond generalizations about America’s primacy and the future of the human race. Presenting them with ready-made, goal-driven, financially viable plans gives them something they can support immediately, with a minimum of staff-hours spent on research.
blog 11 uni graz at

 “I’m no expert. I strongly support space exploration, but I wouldn’t know what to say.”

Great news – you don’t have to! That’s the idea behind the SEA Legislative Blitz, an annual grassroots campaign in which members of thirteen 

space advocacy groups, including the Mars Society, meet with members of Congress to educate them about space exploration and to advocate for specific endeavors. On Day One, organizers will spend time training participants. They will brief you on the members of Congress that you and your small group will meet, giving you talking points customized for that person and his or her constituents’ interests.[For more information, read this excellent article by Kelly Thomas, a then 17-year-old participant in the 2012 Legislative Blitz.]

“What if I want to go but can’t?”

Great news again – the SEA does this every year, so if you can’t participate next month, you can start making plans now for 2014. Butthis year is crucial, given the cuts that NASA has already endured. If you can’t make it to Capitol Hill this year, try something local: do a little research and make an appointment with your own member of Congress (or his or her aide) at the local office.  Also, consider joining an advocacy group, like the Mars Society, and get involved with a local chapter.

It is our destiny to explore and settle space.  We have made great strides since the 1960s, but our collective momentum and resolve have faltered.  Please get involved today. Send a message to America’s leaders that we want to continue our great tradition of human exploration and discovery.

Kerri Beauchesne is a high school English teacher, a Ph.D. student (English) at the University of Texas (Arlington) and a newly appointed staff writer for the Mars Society.

[Images: Parabolicarc.com, Exploremars.org, Unigraz.at]

Mars and Meteorites (Issue #10) UPDATED 10/27/2013

by: Nicole Willett

*****UPDATE*****

blog 22 MarsAsteroidImpactNASA has released information pertaining to the origin of Martian meteorites.  The Curiosity Rover has used its Sample Analysis at Mars instrument to analyze the composition of the atmosphere of the Red Planet.  The scientists paid close attention to two isotopes of Argon that are present in the atmosphere of Mars.  The forms of interest were Argon-36 and Argon-38.  There are specific ratios of Argon throughout the solar system.  The gaseous ratio on Mars is of particular interest in order to compare the gases trapped inside the meteorites that have landed on Earth and have long been suspected to have originated on the Red Planet.  Mars has lost a significant amount of its atmosphere over the history of the solar system.  The lighter form of Argon has been lost to space and the heavier form has remained more intact in what is left of the atmosphere.  The inert nature of Argon, which is a noble gas, makes it especially relevant to the research of the origin of meteorites from Mars.  Being inert means it does not react readily with other gases, so it is stable for a significant amount of time.  When taking all of these compelling pieces of evidence into consideration, the team at NASA has concluded that the meteorites are from Mars.

Original blog:

A meteorite is a piece of rock that falls from space to Earth and lands.  There are different classifications of meteorites each with a distinct composition of elements.  A meteorite tells the geologic history of the body it originates from.  There are several classifications of meteorites, the basic categories are: chondrites, stony, stony-iron, and iron.  Each category has sub groups and some crossovers and exceptions.  Like anything else in science, the more data we gather the more complex the situation gets before we figure it out completely.  

The estimates vary greatly for the amount of material that falls to the Earth each year.  Some scientists estimate that 37,000 to 87,000 tons of material falls to Earth each year, but of that only 4-5 tons are big enough to land and be collected.  However, finding them takes time and patience. Meteorites could conceivably come from anywhere in the solar system.  However, of particular interest to scientists are meteorites from Mars.  There is an estimated 250-300 pounds of known Martian meteorite material in the hands of scientists  and collectors on Earth.   Meteorites can be found anywhere on Earth.  However, there are places that make it a lot easier to find them, such as desert regions and Antarctica because of the contrast of the light sand or white snow and the dark colored meteorites. 

Meteorite ALH 84001 was discovered in 1984 in a region of Antarctica called Allen Hills.  This meteorite has gotten more attention than any other in recent history.  This little rock from Mars made such a sensation, even President Bill Clinton had to get involved.  The Allen Hills meteorite was being studied by Dr. David McKay of NASA.  He published an article in the Journal Science in 1996 that claimed meteorite ALH 84001 had micro-fossils inside of it.  This sent shock-waves through the scientific community and the world media.  Dr. McKay used scanning electron microscope (SEM) technology to image very fine slices of the meteorite.  When he saw the images he determined that they were micro-fossils of bacteria that had been preserved in the meteorite from Mars, thus concluding there had been life on the Red Planet in the past and maybe there is life there now.
blog 10 alh84001 nature com
Immediately other scientists started examining the evidence and some of them came to the conclusion that the results were an artifact of the SEM process and not life.  Others stood by McKay’s results and helped to continue his research.  To this day there are articles supporting and debunking these results.  We may never know if the objects inside the Allen Hills meteorite are microfossils, but we can use other meteorites to extrapolate the data we find to make educated guesses about what the potential for life is in our Solar System.
blog 10 murchison natl museum of nat historyFalling near Murchison Australia in 1969, the Murchison meteorite was witnessed falling to the ground. It is one of the most studied meteorites in the world. It is not thought to have originated from Mars, but the scientific findings of this space rock pose many questions for scientists, especially astrobiologists.  This meteorite has been found to contain many amino acids. Some studies say 15 others say 20 or more.  An amino acid is an organic compound.   It is a three part grouping of nucleotide bases. These amino acids make up proteins and they encode genes which then make up a DNA strand.   To better understand the significance of the amino acid discovery, imagine a nucleotide base as a letter in the alphabet, then group three together to make an amino acid which is like a word in a sentence, next a protein is analogous to a sentence, a gene is like a chapter in a book, and the DNA strand is like an entire book telling the story of an organism.  Although the Murchison meteorite is not from Mars, it begs the question, if there are amino acids in meteorites falling from the sky onto Earth, then why wouldn’t there be meteorites falling to Mars with the same organic material?  When NASA’s Dr. John Grotzinger explained that the organic compounds recently discovered by the Curiosity Rover may not have originated from Mars, my question is, does it matter where the organic material came from?  The organic compounds are there now.  Of course this excludes contamination from Earth.  Everything on every planet came from somewhere else.  We are a collection of material that came from the same swirling cloud of gas and dust.  So if organic compounds are on one planet or satellite, then it is logical that all of the bodies in the solar system, and therefore galaxy, have the same ingredients for life.  This has also been confirmed by spacecraft that have taken samples from cometary debris which also had amino acids in them.  Refer to Blog Issue #4 for Bob Bruner’s Life On Mars In A Box display
blog 10 black beauty sci news comThe Sahara Desert in Africa is where the most recent headline grabbing meteorite was found.  This meteorite dubbed NWA 7034 has been found to be a 2.1 billion year old volcanic meteorite from Mars.  This was determined by examining the chemical signature of the object.   It is nicknamed “Black Beauty” because it has a beautiful dark sheen on its surface.  It is said to have been part of a Martian volcanic eruption that sent it off the planet’s surface or by a large meteorite that struck the surface of Mars with enough force to send the rock into the solar system, where it travelled for a couple of billion years until it landed in Africa.  When the meteorite was examined it gave off a small amount of water vapor, but compared to other Martian meteorites Black Beauty contained much more water.   It also appears to have been altered by an interaction with surface or ground water on the surface of the Red Planet.  Scientists are excited because, while they vacillate a Mars Sample Return Mission, they now have a piece of Mars that they can hold in their hands and study here on Earth.  They have stated  that this is the richest geo-chemical meteorite found to date.  Researchers are excited about all of the new discoveries that will be made with the latest addition to the Martian meteorite collection on Earth.  ~Stay Tuned!~
blog 10 collection fernlea tripod com
                                                                                                                          
 [Images: geology.com, Nature.com, Sci-News.com, Museum of Natural History, Fernlea-tripod.com]

Opportunity Rover Set to Celebrate 10 Full Years on Mars (UPDATED 1-16-14 Issue #9)

by: Nicole Willett

OPPY imageJune 21, 2013 was a big day for Opportunity as she passed five Martian years roving Mars. On January 25, 2014 the Opportunity rover will have completed 10 full Earth years on Mars.  This is an amazing achievement, considering the Opportunity Rover was only a 90 day mission.   Since the 9th anniversary, Opportunity has left Cape York and discovered an area where neutral pH water once was.  This is further evidence of habitability on the Red Planet.  Opportunity then drove to Solander Point in order to drive on a terrain that has a slope pointing toward the sun for the best winter time sunlight collection.  For now Opportunity is on the edge of Endeavor Crater spying interesting minerals as we anxiously await her next amazing discovery.

In honor of Opportunity and her twin, Spirit, a new museum exhibit has opened at the Smithsonian Institution.  Huge wall size panoramas of Mars give visitors a sense that they are on the surface of the planet.  The exhibit also has a full scale model of the rover as its centerpiece.  The name of the exhibit is “Spirit and Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars”   The museum officials stated that the purpose of the exhibit is to combine art and science in a multimedia experience that visitors will be immersed in. (http://www.space.com/24231-mars-rovers-spirit-opportunity-museum-exhibit.html#sthash.hko79mb5.dpuf)

(Original blog published January 2013)

With all of the hype surrounding the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity, it is easy for the public to forget the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity.  The twin rovers were each launched by a Delta II Heavy Lifter rocket in the summer of 2003.  The Opportunity Rover landed using the airbag method in Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004 three weeks after the Spirit Rover landed.  This month (January 2013) Opportunity is set to celebrate 9 full Earth years on Mars.  This very industrious rover was planned for only a 90 day surface mission and has now gone 36 times past its planned mission. The two rovers have made many wonderful discoveries and they paved the way for Curiosity.  Each rover had a distinct personality and each have encountered their own challenges.  Sadly for the MER team, although Spirit also far exceeded its mission, the last contact with Spirit was in 2010.   

Eagle_crater_on_the_Mars_

Once Opportunity bounced to a stop, she ended up in Eagle Crater.  The landing site was named Challenger Memorial Stadium in honor of the astronauts who perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.   Eagle Crater is a small crater with a layered outcropping of geological features.  This was a serendipitous place for a landing, some stating it as an astronomical “hole-in-one”.   

In keeping with NASA’s “follow the water” goal on Mars, the JPL website states the following:

“Understanding the history of water on Mars is important to meeting the four science goals of NASA’s long-term Mars Exploration Program:”oppy arm heat shield rock

  • Determine whether Life ever arose on Mars
  • Characterize the Climate of Mars
  • Characterize the Geology of Mars
  • Prepare for Human Exploration”

To accomplish these goals, Opportunity carries a plethora of scientific instruments and cameras.   The rover carries a panoramic camera, a hazard camera, and a microscopic imager.  It also hosts a suite of spectrometers (an instrument that utilizes the electromagnetic spectrum to analyze data), and a rock abrasion tool (RAT).  Many of these instruments are at the end of a robotic arm that extends to sample and analyze the rocks, soils, and minerals.

Blueberries-thumb-450x452-36184As the rover traverses the many craters on Mars and stops and analyzes each area, she has made many discoveries.  A major discovery at the landing site, as stated by NASA scientists, is that the area was at one time soaked with water.  This was determined by the vast number of spherules found at the site that were later determined to be hematite.  The spherules were nicknamed “blueberries” due to their shape and distribution. Also, in the false color images they appeared to be a bluish hue. Hematite is found on Earth and is known to be formed in the presence of water over a long period of time.  It is a mineral form of iron oxide.   This was a major discovery for the MER team. 
heatshield_rock_500 astronomy comAn unexpected discovery was Heat Shield Rock.  This is a Martian meteorite discovered near the heat shield that had fallen to the ground after the rover landed.  This will always be known as the first discovery of a meteorite on another planet.  The meteorite was pretty easy to spot against the background of Martian soil and rocks.  The “weathering” on a meteorite is quite distinct compared to any indigenous matter.
Erebus crater with solar panelsIronically the mission has been extended so long, in part due to the weather on Mars.  The rover’s power source is in the form of solar panels.  The surface of Mars is covered in fine dust and is very windy.  Several times over the course of the mission, the solar panels have been covered in dust.  The weather on Mars often includes dust devils.  These dust devils have been responsible for clearing the dust covered solar panels, thereby, rejuvenating the power to the rover.  This was an unexpected and happy event for the team.

Opportunity has also made astronomical observations.  These include the transits of both natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos, across the face of the Sun.  The rover’s cameras have also photographed the Earth, which appears as an indistinct bright object in the Martian sky.  This reminds us of how small we really are.

homestake vein nasa jplSome of the major craters that Opportunity has visited include, Endurance Crater, Erebus Crater, Victoria Crater, and Endeavour Crater.  More recently at Endeavour Crater, Opportunity discovered a bright vein of gypsum.  This has been nicknamed “Homestake Vein”.  The identification of this substance is more strong evidence of water on Mars in the past.  Another recent discovery, in September 2012, at Endeavour Crater is a very dense accumulation of spherules that are different than the hematite spherules previously discovered.  It is stated that the spherules in question have a soft middle and crunchy outer layer.  They are still being investigated as to what their composition is. As of December
endeavour spherules nasa jpl

 2012, Opportunity Rover has been studying an area at the rim of Endeavour Crater called Matijevic Hill.  The mission scientists dubbed this portion of the mission a “walkabout”, referring to the human geologists that explore the perimeter of an area before the interior. 

Opportunity has endured a harsh climate and survived, perhaps thrived.  The credit for this must be given to the hundreds or thousands of passionate scientists who designed, developed, and implemented this mission. The Opportunity Rover is managed by a team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Ca.  Recently, the mission deputy project scientist, Diana Blaney stated, “Almost nine years into a mission planned to last for three months, Opportunity is fit and ready for driving, robotic-arm operations and communication with Earth.”  There is more to behold from Opportunity in the future, stay tuned……
[Images NASA/JPL]

The Martians of Fiction Are No More – Astrobiology and Extreme Organisms (Issue #8)

blog 8 mdrs nasaby: Nicole Willett

Astrobiology is a growing field in scientific research.  It is the study of organisms that live under extreme conditions.  These organisms are called extremophiles. Astrobiology encompasses many different sciences, including biology, astronomy, chemistry, and geology.  One goal of astrobiology is to search for habitable environments outside of Earth, on planets such as Mars.  Another is to find out how far to the extreme life can be pushed and still thrive.  Not long ago, we had a very small definition of where and under what conditions life can exist.  Since the implementation of Astrobiology into the world of true scientific research, we have redefined where life can flourish.  The purpose of the rovers and landers on Mars has been to find evidence of past water and possible organic compounds. Astrobiologists are also looking for any evidence of prebiotic chemistry on Mars.  By doing field research and laboratory studies on Earth, we can make comparisons to what we are currently finding on Mars.  Our narrow definition of life from 20 to 30 years ago has been blown wide open.It is now known that life can exist under tremendously stressful conditions.  There are many new terms for these organisms.  Some of which are alkaliphile, halophile, radioresistant, polyextremophile, lithoautotroph, oligotroph, and cryophile.  All of these organisms live in areas that are very far from the traditional areas where life was once believed to thrive.  Previously we believed life needed sunlight, water, a food source, and to exist between 32oF (0oC) and 212oF (100oC).

blog 8 ky cave shrimp pubs usgs govThis narrow niche has changed to a very broad area.  There have been organisms found living in deep caves completely without sunlight and thriving.  One example of this is called the Kentucky cave shrimp.  It is a blind and almost transparent troglobite shrimp. Also, several organisms, such as diatoms and algae, have been discovered living happily in the Arctic and Antarctic Sea ice.  In addition, the bottom of the ocean contains hydrothermal vents that are under extreme pressure and high temperature.  At these vents are entire ecosystems of extremophiles.  They include millions of bacteria, several species of tube worms, shrimp, crabs, fish and many other organisms.  The pH at the vents throughout the world have been measured to be as low as 2.8 (acidophile) and as high as 10 (alkaliphile). An alkaliphile lives in soil that has a high pH usually 9 or above.  The results from the Phoenix Lander that studied the Martian soil in 2008 came back with a pH between 8 and 9.  We know there are organisms on Earth that thrive in alkaline soil.  One example is the Bacillus okhensis.  This organism has been found on salt flats in India.  It is also considered a halophile or salt tolerant bacterium.  Halophiles can be found in environments with a salt content at least five times greater than ocean salinity.  They are found in the Great Salt Lake in Utah, salt flats, and even in the Dead Sea.

Deinococcus radiodurans
is a bacterium that is known to Astrobiologists as an extremely radiation resistant organism.  A lethal dose of radiation for a human is 5 Gy (grey units).  A typical medical x-ray is about 1 mGy (milli grey unit= 0.001 Gy).  This hardy organism can resist a dose of 5,000 Gy wwith no loss of viability and 15,000 Gy with a 37% viability rate. Deinococcus has also been known to be resistant to cold, dehydration, the vacuum of space, and acidic environments.   It is known as a polyextrmophile.  A polyextremophile is an organism that possesses many different characteristics of extreme organisms.
 
blog 8 tardigrade BBCAnother example of a polyextremophile that is a more complex organism is the tardigrade, more commonly known as a water bear.  These animals are amazingly resistant to almost anything nature sends its way.  They are approximately 0.5 mm in length, with four stubby legs, and a slightly segmented chubby body.   Water bears can be found just about anywhere one looks. They have been found from the Himalayas to 13,000 feet below the ocean and everywhere in between.  The pressure differential is tremendous between these areas.  Tardigrades can be heated to over 304oF (150oC) and chilled to -328oF (-200oC) and survive.  They have been taken to space, exposed to the vacuum and solar radiation, brought back to Earth, and survived.  Water bears have the ability to resist exposure to 5,000 Gy of radiation.  It has also been said, by some researchers that Tardigrades go into a state of chemobiosis to resist any environmental toxins that they are exposed to.  How would we know if a water bear were on Mars?  The Curiosity Rover has the ability to detect lipids that exist in the cell walls of organisms such as a tardigrade or any other microorganisms. This is possible even if the organism is in a state of suspended animation.

blog 8 lake vida NASA JPL

On November 28, 2012 it was widely reported that scientists had finally reached the salty water of Lake Vida in Antarctica.  This lake has been isolated from the rest of the world for at least 2,800 years.  The water in this lake has a salt content five times that of the ocean and is below the freezing point.  Even with all of these extreme conditions, scientists discovered 32 species of bacteria.  This number was higher than expected.  Scientists are already comparing this find to what may potentially be found on Mars.

There are many other examples of extreme organisms that are fascinating and may seem alien to people.  Astobiologists wish to use Earth analogues for their research.  The goal is to find the limits of life, if there are any.  This will help us to more readily recognize life when and if we find it on Mars or other bodies in the solar system.  Our rovers are working diligently on Mars to help us find the answer to the question, “Is there life on Mars?” 

On December 3rd, Curiosity Rover Scientists reported the latest findings on Mars.  Curiosity has discovered chlorinated hydrocarbons in the soil.  Included in these results are chloromethane (CH3Cl), dichloromethane (CH2Cl2), chloroform (CHCl3), and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4).  Many of these are found naturally on Earth in marine organisms.  However, the scientists at NASA have stated that these simple organics may not be indigenous to Mars.  They may be contaminants from Earth, asteroids, meteors, or comets, or they may have formed as a result of the chemical reaction in the SAM instrument itself.  Further tests will be performed to determine the nature of the simple organics. Another interesting find was that the percent of H2O in the soil was higher than expected.  In addition there was deuterium (heavy water), sulfur, and chlorine in the soil.  Sulfur is an essential element for all life on Earth.  Please be aware that it is a large leap to go from simple organics to “life” on Mars.  These results are still being verified and studied.  ~Stay Tuned…….

blog 8 mars warm season cold season secosky email dec 4 12

Images [The Mars Society, pubs.usgs.gov, pbworks, NASA/JPL, (Secosky)]

The Incredible Shrinking Martian – From Whales to Microbes (Issue #7)

Recently NASA’s Dr. John Grotzinger has made some exciting statements regarding the recent discoveries on Mars by the Curiosity Rover.  Later the news broke that there has not been any “definitive evidence of Martian organics.”  The results in question will be announced December 3rd at 9:00 am PST / 12:00 pm EST at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco, Ca.  As of December 1, 2012, there is no official recognition by the world-wide scientific community of life being found on the Red Planet…. Stay tuned…..

Nicole Willett, Education Director

Guest Blog by Robert B. Bruner

Derived from the Robert B. Bruner Book Collection at the Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Arizona

Robert Bruner has spent many years searching for and collecting books about Mars.  It is important to note that before 1900 there were very few books exclusively about Mars.  Mr. Bruner has donated almost 400 books to the collection at the Lowell Observatory.  He has generously compiled the following quotes and information exclusively for The Mars Society.  It is interesting to see the pattern of belief and data about life on Mars over such a long time period.

See the Recommended Reading tab of the Mars Society’s Education Page or click the link  for access to the Bibliography. www.lowell.edu/Research/library  Many of these books are available online.

Celestial Scenery(1838) Dick, Thomas

As it is probable that one-third of the surface of Mars is covered with water, should we subtract one-third from these sums there would still remain accommodation for twelve times the number of the population of our globe.  The long duration of winter in the polar regions of Mars seems to require a moon to cheer them during the long absence of the sun; and if there be none, the inhabitants of those regions must be in a far more dreary condition than the Laplanders and Greenlanders of our globe.blog 7 whale informationsentinel com

Plurality of Worlds, (1854) Whewell, William

Perhaps we are not quite certain about the existence of an atmosphere; and without such an appendage, we can hardly accord him tenants. But if he have inhabitants, let us consider of what kind they must be conceived to be, according to any judgment which we can form. The force of his gravity is so small, that we may allow his animals to be large, without fearing that they will break down by their own weight. In a planet so dense, they may very likely have solid skeletons. The ice about his poles will cumber the seas, cold even for the want of solar heat, as it does in our Arctic and Antarctic oceans; and we may easily imagine that these seas are tenanted, like those, by huge creatures of the nature of whales and seals, and by other creatures which the existence of these requires and implies.

Other Worlds Than Ours, (1870) Proctor, Richard

Surely, if it is rashly speculative to say of this charming planet that it is the abode of life- if we must, indeed, limit ourselves to the consideration of what has been absolutely seen-it is yet to speculate, ten thousand times more rashly to assert, in the face of so many probable arguments to the contrary, that Mars is a barren waste, either wholly untenanted by living creatures, or inhabited by beings belonging to the lowest orders of animated existence.

In the High Heavens, (1893) Ball, Thomas

That there may be types of life on Mars of some kind or other is, I should think, very likely.  Two of the elements, carbon and hydrogen, which are most intimately associated with the phenomena of life here, appear to be among the most widely distributed elements throughout the universe, and their presence on Mars is in the highest degree probable. But what course the progress of evolution may have taken on such a globe as Mars, it seems totally impossible to conjecture. It has been sometimes thought that the ruddy color of the planet may be due to vegetation of some peculiar hue, and there is certainly no impossibility in the conception that vast forests of some such as trees like copper-beeches might impart to continental masses hues not unlike those which come from Mars.

Mars as the Abode of Life, (1908) Lowell, Percival

blog 7 canals on Mars NASA JPLFor the construction of these residuary filaments we have a plethora of capabilities to  draw upon: in the first place, beings on a small planet could be both bigger and more effective than on a large one, because of the lesser gravity on the smaller body. An elephant on Mars could jump like a gazelle. In the second place, age means intelligence, enabling them to yoke nature to their task, as we are yoking electricity. Finally, the task itself would be seven times as light. For gravity on the surface of Mars is only about 38 per cent of what it is on the surface of the earth; and the work which can be done against a force like gravity with the same expenditure of energy is inversely as the square of that force. A ditch, then, seven times the length of one on earth could be dug as easily on Mars. Thus, not only do the observations we have scanned lead us to the conclusion that Mars at this moment is inhabited, but they land us at the further one that these denizens are an order whose acquaintance was worth the making. Whether we ever shall come to converse with them in any more instant way is a question upon which science at present has no data to decide.

There is Life on Mars, (1955)  Nelson, Earl

One of these beings declared he had come from Venus, the other from Mars. One, the Martian, was actually photographed. Both resemble terrestrial men in all respects. The Venusian is described as being young and handsome, slightly built and with rather long fair hair.  The Martian was estimated to have been about six feet tall, with a high forehead and, so far as one can judge, not so good looking. Apparently, the Venusian was able to breathe quite comfortably in our atmosphere without artificial aid of any kind. The Martian, on the other hand, appears to have had a small tube up his nose. After chatting amicably with the authors, in sign language, both men returned to their saucers, which took off again.

A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, (1964) Menzel, Donald

The conspicuous red color apparently comes from regions not too different from various deserts of the earth, such as the Painted Desert of Arizona. White “buttons” on the two polar caps which vary in size with Martian seasons, are undoubtedly formed from ice- presumably a thin layer of hoarfrost- which completely vanishes during the Martian summer. Water is a scarce commodity; the planet possesses no discernible oceans or lakes. The grayish areas, once thought to be water, show seasonal changes suggestive of vegetation, but their precise nature has not yet been determined. They may be a form of moss or lichen.

 Caption of JPL Viking Press Release P-17384, (1976)

The picture shows eroded mesa-like landforms. The huge rock formation in the center, which resembles a human head, is formed by shadows giving the illusion of eyes, nose and mouth. The feature is 1.5 kilometers (one mile) across, with the sun angle at approximately 20 degrees. The speckled appearance of the image is due to bit errors, emphasized by enlargement of the photo. The picture was taken on July 25 from a range of 1873 kilometers (1162 miles). Viking 2 will arrive in Mars orbit next Saturday (August 7) with a landing scheduled for early September.

blog 7 alh84001 marsnews com (1)Abstract of Johnson Space Center Announcement 19970003266, (1996)Fresh fracture surfaces of the Martian meteorite ALH84001 contain abundant poly cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These fresh fracture surfaces also display carbonate globules.  Contamination studies suggest the PAHs are indigenous to the meteorite. High resolution scanning and transmission electron microscopy study of surface textures and internal structures of selected carbonate globules show that the globules contain fine-grained, secondary phases of single-domain magnetite and Fe-monosulfides. The carbonate globules are similar in texture and size to some terrestrial bacterially induced carbonate precipitates. Although inorganic formation is possible, formation of the globules by biogenic processes could explain many of the observed features including PAHs. The PAHs, the carbonate globules, and their associated secondary mineral phases and textures could thus be fossil remains of a past Martian biota.

Beyond UFO’s(2008) Bennett, Jeffrey

Because Mars has no liquid water on its surface today, any extant life would presumably be underground at depths where heat can keep water liquid. In other words, Martian life today would probably resemble the terrestrial microbes known as endoliths that live in subsurface rock on Earth. Searching for Martian life therefore presents several difficult challenges: We’d need to drill down to bring up rock from fairly deep underground; we’d need to do that at a location where a heat source is keeping some of the water liquid; and then we’d need to conduct careful experiments to detect the presence of microscopic life.

From Dying Stars to the Birth of Life(2011) Cranford, Jerry

So, what is the story today with respect to the possibility of life on Mars? With the gradual demise of its atmosphere, greenhouse effect, and other sources of geothermal heat, Martian life, if it ever existed, may have been forced to go underground to survive. Life on the surface today would be continually bombarded by lethal doses of ionizing radiation from the Sun as was the Earth prior to the development of the protective oxygen ozone layer in the atmosphere. The fact that many different species of such tenacious critters have chosen to live in such locations on Earth would suggest that this might have occurred on Mars as well.

 

The Search for Aliens, (2012) Bizony,Piers

blog 7 bacteria dragonartz net

No one today seriously anticipates finding anything larger or more complex on Mars than single-celled organisms. At this tiny scale, it was better to focus on the kind of measurable chemical activity that Martian microbes might demonstrate, thus betraying their presence indirectly.  In December, 2003, the European-built Mars Express orbiter detected significant traces of methane in the planet’s thin veil of atmosphere. More than nine-tenths of terrestrial methane (a hydrocarbon consisting of four hydrogen atoms bound to one of carbon) is a by-product of life, whether in the form of fossil fuels and rotting swamps, or puffing out from the backsides of cows. The small fraction not produced biologically is geologic. In theory, it could be a waste product from microorganisms living under the Martian ice or buried deep under the soil.

[Images: informationsentinel.com, NASA/JPL, marsnews.com, dragonartz.net]

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