March 23, 2004
Posted by scott at March 23, 2004 02:36 PM
The big news is Opportunity's landing site was once at the bottom of a sea:
A salty sea once washed over the plains of Mars at the Opportunity rover's landing site, creating a life-friendly environment more earthlike than any known on another world, NASA scientists announced today.
I wonder how long it'll take some dipwad commentator or journalist to start complaining how NASA was "shortsighted" for not including instruments that would be able to search for life, since evidence for water is "so obvious"?
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I figured we'd known that for a long time. Certainly discussed it for years before this mission. I thought one orbiter (sp) had confirmed it already, as well.
The question is, where did the water go?
Most likely, water only existed there for a short time, while the planet still generated enough heat from its creation to keep it warm. As the temperature dropped over time, though, the water probably turned first to ice, and then to vapor, which then gradually escaped into space due to Mars's weak gravity, aided by the tidal forces of its two rapidly-moving moons.
So... now what? Terraforming Mars is unlikely, and building an outpost there would be far more risky than trying to build one on the moon. Is there really that good a possibility that a Mars colony could be self-sustaining, to make it worth the risk?