Earlier I wrote here about the reasons for the never-ending frenzied search for alien life. As I said then,
"There is an obvious and simple explanation - because the majority of them (the scientific community) subscribe to evolutionary theory and reject special creation. The existence of alien life would validate their cherished belief that life can (and did) arise spontaneously by itself here on Earth. And if it happened here, then it must have also happened elsewhere in this seemingly infinite universe given the 14 billion years they currently consign as the age of the cosmos.
But what if we are alone in the cosmos and there is no alien life elsewhere? It is the death knell for their theory of origins and leaves only one other option that is devastating to their worldview - special creation by an omnipotent Creator. Thus, the stampede with ever increasing urgency to find alien life which in their minds would finally vindicate their position and prove the fallacy of a creator God."
We now have NASA breathlessly revealing they found evidence of flowing water on parts of Mars. Jazz Shaw gives us some perspective here on his post appropriately entitled "Big NASA “Mars mystery” announcement gets watered down" ...
I was seeing tease lines in the news over the weekend and on the NASA twitter feed hinting at a major announcement which would come out today. That spurred the usual rounds of speculation with the most popular candidate being that they turned up some form of life or perhaps a fossil or something along those lines. (Personally I was pitching for a large black obelisk of some sort full of stars, but you can only ask for so much.) I honestly wasn’t getting my hopes up too far because they’ve played these games before. Rather than just announcing what they’ve got they schedule a briefing some days in advance to try to stoke up excitement and get as much press mileage as they can and then it turns out to be something that never lives up to the billing.
This one, while promising in some areas, didn’t prove to be much different. They think they’ve spotted signs of liquid water on the surface of the red planet.
.... It’s not that the presence of water on Mars isn’t a big deal in scientific terms… it definitely is. But they already knew there was water there. There are ice caps at the poles and there has been a general consensus for a while now that there was probably at least some water trapped under the surface. The fact that it manages to occasionally run in liquid form on the surface in the low temperatures and pressures is interesting from a physics geek perspective, but it’s really not all that huge in terms of news.
... One concern this is raising for NASA is how to check out the areas with liquid water (presumably the best shot at finding life) without risking contaminating them with life from Earth. Personally I think that ship may have already sailed. We recently found plankton living on the outside of the space station so we’ve pretty much proven that extremophiles can live pretty much anywhere and can even survive for extended periods in the freezing vacuum and radiation of space. We do try to sterilize everything we launch, but are we that effective at the microbial level? I bet there’s already some Earth based microbes hanging out on Mars thanks to us.
Scientists may find ultimately life on Mars, but it might not be Martian life.
Scientists tend to get cagey when you ask them to quantify the likelihood of finding life on other planets. Until there’s evidence, probablys don’t get you very far.
But, you know, there’s probably life on Mars.
That was the subtext from NASA on Monday as scientists announced, in a landmark finding, that the Red Planet has water flowing on it. Not just hunks of ice or evidence of ancient, dried-up oceans—but wet, trickling, salty droplets of water on Mars right now.
A planet that’s alive with water may well be a planet that sustains life, especially in this case.
“We know there’s life on Mars because we sent it there,” said John Grunsfeld, a science director at NASA, during a press conference with reporters on Monday.
This was Grunsfeld being funny, a little, but it’s also an allusion to one of the big problems that comes with looking for signs of living organisms in a place you’ve never seen them before. Which is a problem NASA will face when it actually goes looking for water-supported life on Mars. Namely, how do you make sure the life you think you found didn't get tracked in on the bottoms of your shoes?
This is a question that will affect where scientists eventually seek life on Mars. It has to be a place that seems worth investigating, but also not so conducive to life that it ends up hosting micro-organisms that came in on a contaminated rover from Earth.
Story is here.