The Phoenix successfully landed on Mars last night. Assuming there are no technical difficulties with the solar arrays, camera, and robotic arm – the search for ice can begin in earnest. Ice, or rather water, is important because it is necessary to sustain life. While scientists are “pretty confident” that water exists on mars… they haven’t actually found it yet. No, just evidence of water – ie markings in the surface that sure look like water made them.
There are also the ice caps on Mars – but we don’t know they’re made of ice. I know this is a tad confusing with way that many PhDs talk about space, but the truth is the most powerful telescope in the world can only give scant information about even our own planetary brothers and sisters. We can quickly learn so much more by actually being there – or at least getting a surrogate there for us. (The reasons many can speak with such with such certainty is that since no one else in the world has been there – who can tell them that they are wrong?)
Assuming that ice can be discovered in vast the 1/2 meter drilling reach of the robotic arm – 10 years of scientific conjecture will be vindicated. But that’s not the real mission of the Phoenix. The ice is also hoped to contain organic molecules (containing carbon, oxygen, hydrogen) as the cu de gra for proof of life on Mars.
Now I know I’ve lost a few people there: How does a trace bit of carbon in ice prove life roamed around on Mars? Because science holds that life was created out of a primordial soup (water, amino acids & such + energy) finding anything loosely resembling this soup elsewhere would
- prove life existed on Mars since evolution is inevitable given the right building blocks and enough time.
- prove life evolved on Earth since life existed on two planets in the same solar system which statistically means that life evolved on thousands (if not millions) of planets beyond Earth. Meaning life here is not special or unique as implied by the biblical account of creation.
Pretty important couple of molecules, eh?