As the 2015 Mission to the Solar System continues, we now begin our month-long visit to the planet Mars.
Well, we’re not literally visiting Mars. I’m just blogging about it.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Mars. Does Mars support life? Did Mars support life at some point in its past? Could humans live on Mars at some point in the future?
There’s probably more information available about Mars than any other planet, but most of that information is colored by certain preconceived notions. It’s hard to remain objective about a planet that holds such a prominent place in our collective imaginations.
Many scientists seem to feel strongly that Mars could be friendly to life. Other scientists have the opposite opinion. The debate continues, fueled by tantalizing but often inconclusive clues sent back by our Mars rovers and Mars orbiters.
I for one believe that life once flourished on Mars, and I suspect microbial life of some kind still exists there. I also believe that human colonization of Mars is possible, either using current technology or technology that will be available in the very near future.
But those are only my beliefs. They are my biases as a science enthusiast and science fiction author, and everything I have to say about Mars over the next month will no doubt be colored by my biases. I think it’s important to acknowledge that, both to myself and to you, before we delve into any serious discussion about the Red Planet.
So where do you stand in the ongoing Mars debate? What do you think about the prospects for life on Mars, past, present, and future?
4 thoughts on “Life on Mars: Fact or Wishful Thinking?”
I think it’s very possible that life once existed on Mars. It’s even remotely possible that there’s still some there now, although any life, either now or in the past, would almost certainly be microscopic.
It seems to me that we’ll get an idea of how prevalent, or rare, life is in the universe based on whether or not we find any signs of it in the solar system. (And on whether it shows any sign of having a common origin with Earth life.) If we find independently evolved life on Mars, some moon, etc, then it’s all over the universe, probably in every solar system. If we don’t find it anywhere but on Earth, then that would seem to indicate that it’s rarer than we might like.
I wouldn’t be too disappointed if life on Mars turns out to be distantly related to life on Earth. That would give credence to the concept of panspermia: the idea that life hops from planet to planet, usually via meteorites.
If that turns out to be true, then life may be promiscuously spreading all over the rest of the galaxy too.
It’s hard to say. Panspermia from Earth to Mars (or vice versa) is one thing. Panspermia across interstellar distances seems far less likely, albeit still conceivable. It would require that life survive for billions of years in space. We’d have to find life from a common ancestor around other stars to demonstrate it, which we obviously won’t be in a position to do for a while.
Oh yes, across interstellar distances seems unlikely to me too. What I mean is that if panspermia happened here, it may be a common phenomenon in other star systems as well.
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