Thursday, December 07, 2006
A stream bed clearly created by running water which wasn't there 5 years ago, has been found on Mars.
The photographs provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water, essential for sustaining life, exists on the barren landscape of the 4.5 billion-year-old planet. Until now, only ice had been discovered in remote polar regions, suggesting the presence of water long ago.It does not prove that life exists.
Experts hailed the discovery as the "holy grail" of Mars exploration. "You've heard of a smoking gun; this is what we call a squirting gun," said Professor Ken Edgett, head of a team of scientists at the California-based Malin Space Science Systems laboratory that operated the spacecraft's high-resolution camera.
"We saw there was evidence of water billions of years ago, creating channels and things like that. Today we're talking about water that exists on Mars right now. No-one expected what we have today."
What this proves is that the conditions which would allow the existence of miroscopic life currently exist. Thus if life is remotely common in the universe it will exist on Mars.
It may be that life is not common. You don't have to be a believer in God to realise that the statistical chances of the self replicating chemical reactions known as life are very long even in the life time of a planet. Since we are, im terms of the timecale of evolution, a gnat's whisker from occuping the entire galaxy it seems improbable that a much more advanced lifeform exists or has existed in the last billion years. This is consistent with life being rare. If it doesn't exist on Mars, where we now know it could survive then it is rare. If it does exist on Mars it is common.
Beagle II was a vey important project a few years ago - this news makes it very much moreso.
We should be building a Beagle III (a slightly improved version of the previous one). Almost all the development work has been done so another would be much cheaper. Since it came so close to working all the politicians & ESA apparatchiks have taken over the idea but instead decided they want to spent longer & 10 times as much on their version. This is entirely the wrong approach as NASA have repeatedly proven.