Finding evidence for life on Mars has been a decades-long ambition for NASA, which has spent billions of dollars to send machines wheeling over, poking and probing the Red Planet. But once the signs of life are found, how are those findings verified?
In early January, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover came across what some researchers thought might be trace fossils on Mars. Researchers first spotted the eye-catching, tiny, stick-like features in black-and white imagery, but they were compelling and unusual enough for the rover science team to roll the robot back to further interrogate them.
February - Hundreds - Meteors - North - America
On February 9, 1913, hundreds of fireball meteors rained down on North America for no apparent reason. This strange event is known as the Great Meteor Procession of 1913. With typical meteor showers, meteors appear to originate from the same point in the sky called the radiant. But these meteors weren't shooting out from any kind of radiant. Instead, they seemed to be flying in formation and moving horizontally through the sky, parallel to Earth's surface. The meteors were also moving unusually slow, and the procession lasted for several minutes. To this day, astronomers aren't really sure what was up with this bizarre meteor shower.
Regarding trace fossils on Mars, "We don't rule it out," Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and project scientist for the Curiosity Mars rover, told Space.com. "But we certainly won't jump to that as our first interpretation."
Event - Degree - Difficulty - Features - Limits
The event underscored the degree of difficulty in studying and analyzing such peculiar features, as well as the limits of robotically performed "Curiosity science investigations" (CSI). But it also begs a fundamental question.
No doubt, Mars is holding its secrets tight — but if the ongoing work of detecting life proves positive, what protocols are in place to confirm such a verdict?
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