By guest blogger, BroKen
Recently NASA placed a new robot on Mars. It is the fourth rover we've landed there. In 1996 the Pathfinder bounced onto Mars and then after deflating its “airbags” sent off the Sojourner rover to scratch rocks and “sniff” the dust to find what Mars is really made of. Sojourner lasted several weeks before contact was lost. The next two rovers called Spirit and Opportunity were launched in 2003. They are amazing for their longevity. Expected to last for three or perhaps six months if they were lucky, Spirit ran for years before getting stuck in some sand. Opportunity is still roving around the Red Planet sending pictures and other data back home. I imagine him saying, “I think I can. I think I can.” as he keeps climbing hills and overcoming obstacles on Mars. Opportunity really is the little robot that could.
The newest arrival on Mars is appropriately called Curiosity. He is about the size of a small car, and after surviving a mind-blowingly complex landing, he will soon be roaming around his new home looking for signs of life on Mars. If I understand the scientists correctly, they are not so much looking for life on Mars today as looking for evidence that sometime in the past Mars was warmer, wetter, and with an atmosphere that could have supported life.
I hope they succeed. They have already made fantastic strides just by placing these remote control cars on Mars. I hope they find the sedimentary rocks that were formed at the bottom of an ancient Martian sea. I hope that they get a surprise by finding water is still there, perhaps frozen beneath the surface. I hope they find some Martian lichen growing on some rocks. But that is not very likely.
Still, I'll go out on a limb here. I am ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths percent sure that there is life on Mars. How can I be so confident? Well, quite simply, because we put it there.
Besides these rovers NASA sent to Mars, we've landed several other craft, though some failed.. The Russians has made landings on Mars, and some of theirs were crash landings too. The European Space Agency sent a lander to Mars and although contact with it was lost before it landed, it is probably somewhere on Mars even if broken into thousands of pieces. We humans have sent a dozen or more objects from Earth to the surface of Mars.
Sure, these craft were assembled in ultra clean rooms and were probably sterilized before they were launched. But all it takes is one flake of dandruff or a droplet from a sneeze, one little dust speck squashed under a screw or a clamp. Then, hundreds or thousands, maybe millions of bacteria have hitched a ride to Mars. And, you know, all it takes is one.
Will they grow and spread on Mars? We may never know in our lifetimes. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet on life.