May 8, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Trouble for Mars Lifers

Evidence disputes Mars water, let alone life.  It’s looking like a toxic place.  Besides, where would the water come from?

The big mound in Gale Crater, site of the Mars Curiosity Rover, looked like a tantalizing place to look for habitability.  Mt. Sharp, as it is called, appeared to be a mountain laid down by water.  Now, however, it looks more likely it was built by wind.  Astrobiology Magazine shared the bad news from Princeton: “If correct, the research could dilute expectations that the mound holds evidence of a large body of water, which would have important implications for understanding Mars’ past habitability.

Where would the water have come from, anyway?  Live Science proclaimed that Mars and the core of Jupiter formed from “large space crashes.”  The energy of impacts would seem to obliterate volatile compounds (including water).  That’s why cosmogonists try to find other sources for Earth’s oceans, assuming it crashed into existence similarly.  The highly speculative theory proposed by U of Chicago scientists, given credence in the article, relies on numerous improbabilities, among them: (1) dust particles sticking together to make  planetestimals, (2) sufficient numbers of planetesimals colliding and accreting together instead of breaking up into fine particles, and (3) sufficient time before all the planet-forming ingredients are expelled from the system.

Michican State scientists are divining the meaning of Martian meteorites again, but they admit the conclusions are unclear: “most meteorites that originated on Mars arrived on Earth so long ago that now they have characteristics that tell of their life on Earth, obscuring any clues it might offer about their time on Mars,” a researcher confessed.  Given the confusion, they are only “laying the groundwork for future researchers to answer this age-old question.”  In other words, they have nothing to say.

Mars must certainly not be a lively place now, given what landers have found.  There are “pesky perchlorates all over Mars, ” Science Magazine said.  The chlorine compounds not only erase carbon compounds by converting them to gas, they make living on Mars dangerous.  The perchlorates and other chemicals like gympsum get into fine dust that blows all over the planet, making it a dangerous place to send humans.  New Scientist described how “Toxic Mars could hamper planned human missions.”  The fine dust could harm the lungs and thyroid glands of future astronauts.  Even in the safety of spacesuits, the electrified dust would stick to everything, making its way unavoidably into astronaut living quarters.

The bad news is not stopping children of the Star Trek generation, though.  Some 78,000 have applied to go on a proposed one-way trip to Mars, New Scientist reported elsewhere.  Hopefully they won’t find out too late that it’s a suicide mission.

Mercury is a sterile hell, Venus is a sterile hell, Mars is a toxic wasteland, and so on out.  In between Venus and Mars lies this blue jewel we call Earth, blessed with abundant water, greenery, and life in almost every nook and cranny.  It has the right magnetic shield, the right solar energy, the right continental minerals, the right atmosphere, the right carbon/oxygen/water/nitrogen cycles — the right everything.  Doesn’t that send a message we should heed?  Maybe the Creator gave us all these other worlds to examine, so that we would appreciate all the more how well designed our Earth is.  For those not drunk on Darwine, that has been the primary benefit of the planetary exploration program.





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