Has life existed on Mars? Could there be life? Those are the main concerns of the NASA people who’ve just launched a mission to reach Mars in May 2008. Scientific operations on the Martian surface will last about three months. Investigators believe there is water ice some centimeters below the surface. They’ll probe into whether there are signs of the ice melting. This could provide clues as to the history of the water ice and whether it could support microbial life.
Peter Smith who is a professor at the University of Arizona and the mission’s principal investigator said they’d try to find out whether the ice has melted. “Liquid water in contact with soil may provide us with a habitable environment.”
The Phoenix solar powered spacecraft was launched today, a day later, due to adverse weather conditions. It is equipped with various instruments to enable probing into a wide profile of the Martian environment. There’s a robotic arm to dig trenches, position tools and deliver samples to other instruments. Soil samples will be examined using microscopy, electrochemistry and conductivity analyzer. A camera is on board for taking images of the soil. A thermal and evolved-gas analyser will assess the chemical properties and look for organic compounds of samples. And of course the daily weather and seasonal changes will be tracked by a meteorological station with the use of temperature and pressure sensors.
Man’s quest for exploration has always been insatiable. At one time it was the Moon; now Mars. After the two earlier failed attempts towards Mars, let’s keep fingers crossed.