The uncertainty of science: An analysis of five years of data from Mars Odyssey suggests that the dark streaks flowing down Martian slopes might contain very little and possibly no water at all.
This year, planetary scientists Christopher Edwards and Sylvain Piqueux took a closer look at the feature using a thermal imaging instrument on board Mars Odyssey, another orbiter. They found no temperature differences between the dark RSL streaks and surrounding terrain — which suggests that the streaks aren’t really patches of wet sand streaming down a slope. At best, they say, the RSLs could contain no more than 3 percent liquid water — making them more like mildly damp, slightly salty dirt. And that’s an optimistic interpretation, Edwards said; it’s possible the RSLs contain no water at all. “Why this process is happening in this area, or what is causing this darkening, I don’t think is exactly obvious at this point,” he continued. “But to say it’s flowing liquid water, I don’t think it’s the whole story. It’s not necessarily even the right story.”
This data once again illustrates why we must be very careful with our conclusions when looking at features on an alien world that seem to resemble things we are familiar with here on Earth. Just because they might look alike is not evidence that they are the same. Mars has a very different gravitational field (one-third of Earth’s) and a significantly different make-up. We might be witnessing processes we’ve never seen before that produce features that mimic Earthlike forms.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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