If recent cuts to planetary science weren't drawing blood before, they are now. Because this week a group of scientists reexamined data from the 1976 Viking Landers and announced we had indeed found strong evidence of microbial life on Mars at that time:
One of the three experiments, which were known as the ?Labeled Release? experiment, hinted to the presence of life on Mars, while the others did not. A mathematical analysis of the samples found that salts in the soil on Mars ?threw off? initial estimates, and that the soil samples show strong evidence of microbial life. The new analysis looked for ?complexity? in the samples, which the scientists claimed to have found.This is an extraordinary claim, as such it will require extraordinary evidence (We miss you Carl). Ergo, all eyes are now on NASA's Mars programs and especially the Mars Science Laboratory already en route to the red planet with the flagship rover, Curiousity, on board. ETA 6 Aug 2012. But Curiousity does not have either of the two items that might solve this issue once and for all: a high power microscope or return sample capability.
?This suggests a robust biological response,? the researchers wrote in the International Journal of Aeronautic and Space Sciences (PDF). ?These analyses support the interpretation that the Viking LR experiment did detect extant microbial life on Mars.?
Fomalhaut is a young star, just a few hundred million years old, and twice as massive as the Sun. Its dust belt was discovered in the 1980s by the IRAS satellite, but Herschel?s new images of the belt show it in much more detail at far-infrared wavelengths than ever before.
In other words, the amount of money being cut from Mars exploration is equal to what we were spending on the War on Terror in just 15 hours. ... You might want to read that again. For the cost of less than a single day on the War on Terror, we could have a robust and far-reaching program to explore Mars, look for signs of life on another planet ...If you want those exciting missions and others, you'd better let your elected representative know. Because, if proposed cuts go through, we will be postponing the projects that could settle the most important question in science, indeed for our very species, by decades.