If Life Exists On Mars We May
Have Put It There
By James Donahue
From the controversy over the so-called “Face on Mars”
to a recent image from one of the active land rovers that looks somewhat like a humanoid skull, the speculation that life
exists . . . or once existed . . . on the red planet goes on, and on.
When I was a teenager I vividly remember reading Ray Bradbury’s
classic book The Martian Chronicles that suggested future colonization of Mars. I read a lot of science fiction in those days,
and remember a great story in one of the magazines of the time . . . it may have been Colliers . . . complete with color art,
describing a way for man to build a space craft and travel to the moon and back.
When we got around to actually sending men to the moon in
the 1960s, we followed the plan outlined in that magazine article almost to the letter. The only difference was that the story
proposed building the space station first and then taking off from there instead of blasting off directly from Earth. But
that writer had a good grasp of the problems of space travel.
When President George W. Bush proposed sending men to Mars
we all knew that would not be a sane thing to do. The information we have been getting from the two land rovers crawling around
on that planet for nearly three years depicts a dead, dry and uninhabitable landscape. Indeed, the discovery that water appears
to exist at or near the poles makes the project scientifically possible, but still not worth the effort and possible cost
of lives and money.
The once-touted face supposedly carved in a mile-wide rock,
on close examination does not resemble a human face at all. We are skeptical about suggestions by people pouring over the
thousands of Martian images that certain objects look like human skulls, or metallic man-made pieces of junk.
Any junk that we might find on Mars fell off one of the
many probes that the United States and Russia sent there since our space exploration programs began.
Any life, if it exists at all, is microbial in form, and
it probably hitched a ride to Mars on one of the ships we sent from Earth. There is a question if even bacterial life would
survive very long in that hostile environment.
But suppose we have, indeed, succeeded in sending a bacteria
to Mars that will not only survive, but flourish there. There is something strangely exciting about the prospect of our having
actually succeed in planting life on another planet in our solar system.
And if we did it on Mars, we may also have done it on some
of the other planets that we have sent probes to and then crashed them on the surface. As we recall, we sent a probe on Galileo
to Jupiter in 1995, Pioneer crashed on Venus in 1978, Huygens dropped from Cassini to Titan, the large moon around Saturn
in 2005, and we had a mission on its way to Pluto. There may have been others.
While we have not succeeded in moving ourselves from Mother
Earth and finding a place to colonize among the stars, and we are rapidly running out of time in which to do so, it may be
possible that we have inadvertently been seeding the planets around us.
If Darwin was right and life evolves, perhaps a future exists
for creatures that originated from the Mother Earth after all. It just won’t be us.