Monday, August 06, 2007

Phoenix Mission Seeks Out Life On Mars Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
(Image: Phoenix lifting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: NASA)

With the successful launch of NASA's Phoenix "rover," scientists will finally be able to discover just how fertile Martian soil is for life (both future and current).

(The Planetary Society) "Today's launch is the first step in the long journey to the surface of Mars. We certainly are excited about launching, but we still are concerned about our actual landing, the most difficult step of this mission," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, Tucson. [...]

Phoenix will be the first mission to touch water-ice on Mars. Its robotic arm will dig to an icy layer believed to lie just beneath the surface. The spacecraft instruments will study the history of the water in the ice, monitor weather of the polar region, and investigate whether the subsurface environment in the far-northern plains of Mars has ever been favorable for sustaining microbial life.

Although both Spirit and Opportunity have provided our species with glorious images of the red planet, Phoenix will indicate whether or not Martian soil is toxic towards terrestrial life (particularly humans).

Even if Phoenix is unable to discover any microbes upon the red soil, its analysis could determine whether or not humans will be able to raise crop (and hopefully cattle) upon Mars, or whether we have to simply skip the crimson planet for other worlds.

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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