On October 9th, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover spotted something shiny in the Martian soil.
The discovery came as the rover labored away, scooping up samples of Martian soil. The “first scoop” took place on October 7th, when Curiosity reached its small 1.8 inch x 2.8 inch scoop into the red planet’s soil.
Oddly enough, while gold rush pan-handlers had to spend many hours sifting through river soils of the Western U.S. landscape to sift out a few flecks of shiny gold, the Curiosity rover struck gold on its first try, even though the find wasn’t actually in the scoop of soil itself. The rover team spotted something shiny laying on the ground next to the rover.
The next day, October 8th, the team made the decision to halt scooping in order to take better pictures of the object, to determine whether or not it is a piece of the rover itself. (1) NASA experts are telling the media that the shiny speck is likely “a shred of plastic” from the rover itself.
Setting aside the likelihood that the shiny object is just a fleck off the rover itself, the discovery caused me to imagine exactly how the world might react if the Curiosity rover does ever discover something completely unexpected and shocking hidden on the surface of Mars.
How a Mars Discovery May Change the World
This isn’t to say that this strange, shiny object is nothing more than a piece of plastic or shredded metal off the rover itself, but the abnormal sight of a shiny object among the seemingly endless brown and pebble-strewn Martian soil is intriguing. It makes one wonder – what if?
What if it were discovered that the object were some strange, exotic bit of Martian geology? What if it were a metal so precious that it were worth far more than gold on Earth?
Would such a discovery launch a “gold-rush” of sorts to the Red Planet, where private industry – driven by the promise of immense wealth – started to invest heavily into a Mars mining operation? One would think that such an operation would be cost-prohibitive, but if the riches were easy to mine and with a dizzying profit-margin, would that not be enough incentive to try?
According to a 2010 article in Discovery News, Mars offers plenty of opportunity for prospectors. There’s the promise of the volcanoes and impact craters, where minerals from below the surface could leach out through cracks or “veins”. Since the crust and atmosphere is so different than Earth, according to author Larry O’Hanlon, “…its minerals are going to be no less different.” (2)
A History of Life?
Life on Mars. It’s a concept that is really difficult to fathom, because realistically the only sort of life that could survive would be microbes. As the great Carl Sagan once wrote, “If there is life on Mars, I believe we should do nothing with Mars. Mars then belongs to the Martians, even if the Martians are only microbes.”
Even President Obama made a statement in response to the mission of the Curiosity Rover, “I’ve got a lot of things on my plate, but if there is [life on Mars], I suspect that’ll go to the top of my list.”
It was a rare reference by a U.S. politician – the President no less – about alien life. (3)
It should be old news to readers here that the U.S. government funded a remote viewing (psychic) research project during the 1960s through the 1990s, known as the STAR GATE program. After that project was shut down, many of those self-proclaimed psychics or “remote viewers” branched off and started their own private efforts to utilize the “skills” they had learned to either earn money or expand the field of psychic research (for those of you that believe in that stuff).
Bob Monroe of the Monroe Institute trained Joe McMoneagle, one of the remote viewers for the U.S. government. During one particular training session, trainer Skip Atwater performed sessions with Joe that included the use of NASA photographs on Mars that showed geographic formations. On an index card that Joe could not see, Skip wrote “The planet Mars, one million years BC.”
Joe’s job, without any knowledge of the photos or the text on the card, was to describe what he could see at specific coordinates that where provided to him, simply by using whatever information was hidden inside of the envelope (the photos).
Joe eventually predicted the presence of “very large people wearing very strange clothes,” who faced a major geological disaster that forced them to abandon the planet. According to a description from the Monroe Institute website, Joe was apparently even “in telepathic contact with one of the Martians” at one point. (4)
Life on Mars
While the remote viewing session sounds a bit loopy and far-fetched (because it pretty much is), the idea of actually discovering some form of life on Mars today isn’t so far fetched, at least in some microbial form.
The idea of discovering evidence on the planet of some ancient civilization from many thousands of years ago may not even be very far-fetched either. The real question comes down to whether the planet could ever have been suitable to life in the past.
According to Christopher McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA, you bet. McKay told NOVA in 2004 that scientists believe Mars could have supported life because of the fact that it likely once had water on its surface.
“…there’s evidence recorded on its surface that Mars at one time had water, lots of it. There were rivers, lakes, maybe even an ocean. Mars had water early in its history, possibly at the same time Earth first hat life.” (5)
The question is intriguing. If it did harbor life, or at least water, what happened? McKay even stipulated that life could have evolved on Mars much faster than on Earth.
“It’s possible that Mars, being smaller than the Earth, evolved more rapidly than the Earth in terms of oxygen, and that if life started on Mars, it could have reached the level of complex life faster than Earth.” (5)
So, what would it mean if the Curiosity rover stumbles across some amazing artifact from some ancient civilization? What would happen if Curiosity starts drilling into the rocks on Mars and discovers evidence of microbial life on the surface?
What does it mean when the President pencils in “life on Mars” as one of his number one priorities, and what would it mean to our civilization when the concept of alien life turns from one of jokes and ridicule, into something that the world must start taking very seriously?