If there was a wet climate on Mars in the past, as the channels imply, perhaps there was lifeformas well; could life, in some form, remain in the martian soil today? "The time has come for America to commit itself to a bold new venture in space: the human exploration and settlement of Mars. We're ready." (Zubrin) Robert Zubrin, a reporter for USA Today, made that bold statement in April of this year. His article goes on to defend the human adventure to Mars -- why we should do it, how to do it. But one question remains in every mind who has studied the stars on a clear winter night or wondered "what if?" after watching a particularly frightening science fiction movie. That singular question, answered in part by the Pathfinder Mission, has been . . . what or who will we find there? .
In August of 1996, NASA scientists revealed a rock ejected from Mars by meteoric impact which showed strong evidence of life on Mars in the distant past. If scientists can qualify this most amazing discovery, it would undoubtedly demonstrate that the origin of life is not unique to the Earth. If the origin of life is not unique to Earth, it means humans exist in a universe that is filled with life. If it is filled with life, how difficult of a cognitive leap is it to assume that the universe is then probably filled with other intelligence as well. From the point of view of humanity learning its true place in the universe, this would be the most important scientific enlightenment since Copernicus.
The "canals" charted through a telescope by astronomer Percival Lowell almost a century ago at his observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, turned out to be just an imaginative figment when Mariner 9 mapped much of Mars in 1971. (Lowell had become a leading exponent of the idea that the canals were constructed by living creatures to irrigate their crops.) Five years after Mariner 9, when America's two Viking spacecraft settled onto Mars' surface, conditions were found to be so hostile that life was essentially ruled out.