Digging Out Information

In a positive story about the handicapped, albeit a machine, the Mars Spirit rover is dredging up evidence of life-supporting minerals on the Red Planet.

Spirit was built with six wheels, but one of them no longer spins and just drags along. The dragging does something that Spirit was never designed to do. It cuts a deep track into the soil. Spirit can then be turned around to examine the churned up soil.

In this case, the rover’s thermal emission spectrometer has found a high silica content. This would require water to form. And of course water is the stuff of life.

For me, the big question is not whether life once existed on Mars, but rather what it says about how Mars could contribute toward the sustainability of imported life and terraforming. Either way, it is a big development.

The rovers were expected to last about 90 days. They have been working for almost 1,200. And the discoveries just keep happening. I can’t help but think of how rapidly major discoveries would be made with actual eyes and hands (and a well supplied lab) on the planet. They could do in a few weeks far beyond what the rovers have done over the course of years.

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