|» ||Is NASA About to Waste Billions of Your Tax Dollars?|
The space agency wants to find evidence of life on Mars.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is planning the next unmanned mission to Mars to try to find evidence of life, past or present. A new rover, which is nearing completion, is at the center of the 2.5 billion dollar project.
According to scientists, previous rovers on Mars have shown that the planet once had the building blocks of life. So now, researchers want to find evidence that actual life has existed there.
The launch window for the rover begins on July 17 and the trip to the Red Planet should take about seven months. If all goes according to plans, next February the probe will land in a lakebed thought to have once been filled with water. The lakebed is a target for exploration because life cannot exist without water.
Although the yet-unnamed rover looks similar to and is about the same size as the Curiosity rover which was active on the previous mission, it will be about 278 pounds heavier. It will differ from Curiosity in having the ability to analyze and process samples of soil and rock and then put them into tubes which will then be picked up by a Mars mission expected to launch in 2026.
This future mission will return the samples to Earth to be examined in laboratories by electron microscopes and other instruments. The hardest part of the mission was ensuring that the samples wouldn’t be contaminated by any organisms from Earth.
"For all of human history we have asked, 'Are we alone in the universe?'" said Luther Beegle, who worked on the spacecraft. Just finding evidence of a single-cell organism would be considered a success.
Comments: It was a little surprising to read that the 2026 spacecraft hasn’t yet been developed. It appears the scientists are gambling a bit on the expectation of eventually designing a means of retrieving the tubes containing the samples.
Also, they appear very concerned about accidentally contaminating the samples with Earth germs. It would be very embarrassing if they would announce finding evidence of living or once-living cells in these samples, only to later have to retract the big news because they found the cells were actually from Earth.
Although satisfying one’s curiosity is a big part of science, it does seem that any project designed to try to find evidence of past or present life elsewhere in the universe is a waste of time and money. In the first place, intelligent scientists have yet to create life from non-life in a laboratory. If intelligent scientists can’t create life, how can we expect mindless nature to do it anywhere else, even if there are billions of Earth-like planets? By the way, the “building blocks” of life supposedly found on Mars is organic material which doesn’t necessary come from living matter.
In the second place, we can’t forget the Fermi Paradox. Physicist Enrico Fermi once wondered out loud why we have had no hard evidence of extraterrestrials. After all, given the relatively young age of the solar system (according to secular dating) of 4.5 billion years and comparing it to the age of the universe, about 13.8 billion years, one sees that other planetary systems have been around for billions of years longer. Therefore, aliens on these older planets have had much more time to develop space travel and by now should be filling up the skies with evidence of their presence. Yet, there is nothing to indicate they exist.
One of the comments following this article suggested that the 2.5 billion dollars could better be spent on improving roads and schools. As Christians who know that only God can create life (Isaiah 42:5), and He has not told us anywhere in Scripture that He created life elsewhere in the cosmos. So, we might have plenty of suggestions as to how to better spend this money.
But like the secular scientists who are constantly looking up at the stars, to try to find evidence of other intelligent beings, Christians also have our minds on things above. “Therefore, because you were raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2, EHV). However, for us, heaven is much more important than Mars.
Reference: Chris Woodyard, “Are we alone in the universe? NASA is building a $2.5B robotic astronaut to help us find out,” USA TODAY/Yahoo News [January 4, 2020]. (Illustration of the Curiosity rover on Mars, from NASA.)
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QUESTION OF THE DAY
How does dolphin hearing compare to that of humans?
Dolphins have such sharp hearing that they can detect a range of sounds seven times greater than that of humans.
Source: Sarah Eshleman, “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” Answers [January-February, 2020], page 37.
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