There Goes the Neighbourhood

Did you hear the news? No? Have you been living under a rock?

Obviously no one lives under a rock – that’s silly. But, in case you didn’t already hear the news and are just finding this out here (which would be awesome and hilarious), NASA found life on Mars NASA found evidence that indicates water currently flows on/below the surface of Mars.

For more complete stories, I recommend you check out NASA’s website or this IFLScience article.

This has been long speculated and comes as no surprise to a majority of the scientific community that have been researching our little red cousin planet. Evidence such as stream- and riverbed-like depressions, coupled with basin-like formations have pointed to Mars possessing flowing, liquid water across parts of its surface at some point in its history for almost a decade now.

So, how do they know this?

To make a long, complicated story involving much maths and sciences much shorter, an orbital sensor suite (the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO) detected evidence of widening, lengthening, and then receding stream-like formations over the course of transitioning martian seasons. When the temperature rises above -23 degrees Celsius these formations would expand, deepen, and lengthen in the warmer months before fading away in the cooler months. These observations also correlate well with findings from the MRO’s spectrometer data, indicating the presence of salts (magnesium perchlorate and sodium perchlorate, among others) which means it’s very likely salt water that’s flowing on Mars.

Ah yes, but why is this important? We have water here on Earth.

Keen observation! And how right you are, sir. Please, enjoy this cookie and acknowledge two important potential consequences of this finding:

  1. Earth has a lot of water. That’s a good thing, because we humans are over 70% water and require a vast amount of it to continue on enjoying life. Most other heavenly bodies in our solar system do not have liquid water, and this poses a problem to those (like NASA, SpaceX, and others) that want to send people there. Originally, a huge amount of food and water, plus other supplies, would be needed to be shipped with any future astronauts so that they could make it a healthy round-trip. With this discovery, it’s within the realm of possibility to harness this local water supply, desalinate and purify it, and possibly drink it or use it to grow crops in a Martian colony.
  2. And this is potentially the biggest consequence. Evidence for flowing, liquid water on Mars means that the potential for there to be lifeforms on Mars is now much higher. No, I don’t mean that we’ll meet E.T. when we go there. But, if I were a betting man, I’d say there is at least some form of primitive microbial ecosystem living in the salty water that flows under the surface. That is, if the notion of extremophiles that are found here on Earth can be carried over to include Mars. There are a lot of factors at play here including the whole how did life evolve here anyways topic. In saying that, while withholding any doubts, hopes, or speculation, this could do one very important thing: it could light a fire under the asses of space agencies around the world to finally get cracking to Mars and check it out! I cannot stress enough how important it would be if we discovered life on any other planet besides our own. This one fact, if discovered, and no matter if it be microbial or otherwise, will completely change how we view our place in this universe forever. It will mean that life may in fact be more common in our universe than we previously thought, which begs the question: where is everybody? That line of thought is called the Fermi Paradox, and my favourite blog waitbutwhy covers it in an excellent article. If life is common, is intelligent life then special? Or are we floating through a cosmos teeming with super-intelligent lifeforms that we don’t have the capability (or imagination) to perceive? It’s a very interesting thought, and one that we don’t have an answer for right now, one way or the other.

No matter what comes of it, this is an absolutely huge day for NASA, space/life enthusiasts, and the general future of the human race.

With that I bid you a great evening with a huge, nerdified smile on my face.

— Oh wait! I forgot, this is a general article so I’m going to post three more random facts about myself!

  1. I’ve watched Star Trek since I was three years old.
  2. I can speak Spanish semi-flutently.
  3. I can play almost any Red Hot Chili Peppers song on the drums, a la Chad Smith.

The same rule applies, only two of those are true.

Cheers.

Featured image: the Red Planet. – Google

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