December 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

Wet-Marsers Win, But Life Unlikely

The discovery of evidence for past water on Mars made Science magazine’s Breakthrough of the Year.1  Most recently, the Spirit rover found goethite, an iron oxide that forms most readily in water, announced a JPL press release Dec. 13.  Although Richard A. Kerr at Science feels this second discovery on the opposite side of Mars from the Opportunity Rover provides a “second chance for life,” he admits it’s a long shot: “Mars was taking a different environmental path [from Earth], one too stressful for any life that might have managed to take hold.  Even at Meridiani [where Opportunity is roving], the most habitable site found so far, the water was acidic, briny, and, at least at the surface, intermittent—not a promising place for life to originate.”
Update 09/21/2007: Data from the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter indicates that Mars probably never had much water: see 09/21/2007.


1Richard A. Kerr, “On Mars, a Second Chance for Life,” Science, Vol 306, Issue 5704, 2010-2012, 17 December 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5704.2010].

Life does not just “originate” any more than a castle will “originate” on an outcrop of marble.  So Mars may have had intermittent, briny, acidic pools of water that stunk.  Sounds like a graveyard for organic chemicals, not a Garden of Eden.

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