Ice on Mars?
Every kid alive at some point has listed "astronaut" as a future career choice...myself included. The race for space has always been one wrapped in equal parts mystery, adventure and allure, and from the very first monkey that was blasted into orbit in 1948, we have spent 60 years searching for life on other planets.
What have we gained from those 60 years? Yes, we landed humans on the moon from 1969 to 1972, a feat we all know to be "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." And in the 36 years since astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt walked on the surface of our moon for the last time, not much has happened with the Apollo project. There's been no moon real estate, no resort on the moon, no significant use for moon rocks.
And without any doubt, the space program, while noble, has been really hard on our planet's monkey population, according to Wikipedia:
"Albert, the first rhesus sent into space, died of suffocation during the June 11, 1948 flight, and his successor, Albert II survived the space flight but died on impact. Albert III died at 35,000 feet in an explosion of his V2 rocket, and Albert IV again died on impact. On April 18, 1951, Albert V died due to parachute failure, and Albert VI became the first animal to survive rocket flight in 1951 although he died two hours after landing. It wasn't until Patricia and Mike – two cynomolgus monkeys that did survive their flight on May 21, 1952 – that we finally figured out how to blast monkeys into space without somehow causing their demise."While those glory days at NASA were focused on the moon, today we seem to be fixated on Mars, for reasons I have yet to understand. With the announcement of this week's find of actual water ice on Mars by the $420 million Phoenix Mars Lander Project, we now have scientists the world over having space discovery orgasms every day now. Apparently, the discovery of ice means something about life being there many quadzillions of years ago, or not. The possibility of ice on Mars has a different meaning to each different scientist, and while it is certainly new information, is it all that important to our civilization as we know it?
See, here's the deal: I'm one of those who believe there is no chance at all that this rock we live upon is the ONLY one in the entirety of space to have some sort of beings inhabiting it. If space is indeed infinite, that means that along with our own galaxy, there would be an infinite number of galaxies out there. If each one of them had one Earth, then any way you slice it, there would be a very, VERY high number of other planets with Little Green Men, Big Chartreuse Women, or some mongoloid off-color mixture of the two.So if ice on Mars means that at one point in that rock's existence, it was covered in "life", it sure the hell isn't any more. It is just a big, hot, dry, deserted nothing. Maybe at one time, Mars had giant cities with mega-highways full of oil-burning vehicles of all shapes spewing toxic exhaust into it's atmosphere, governed by baboons who failed to recognize that very slowly, the Martian planet was burning itself out. When all the arrogant Martians refused to give up their Martian SUVs, and with all the Martian factories turning the Martian skies into a waste dump, it was only a matter of time before the planet became an uninhabited chunk of worthless space real estate.
And if you read this article from AP out today, it is not that hard to envision our rock someday becoming another wasteland just like Mars. Only we have the knowledge and power to turn our global warming around, just as soon as we send OUR government baboons into space on a one-way rocket ride to the dark side of the sun. Now there's a NASA mission I could support!
Bottom line: If it turns out that the data retrieved from Mars by the Phoenix Lander turns up something we can use to help our planet from becoming the next Mars, then every dime spent will have been worth it. But if all we dig up is...ice, then will we be getting a good ROI for the millions it cost us?