life and death on mars

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Life
Chief of astrobiology at NASA’s Johnson space center, David McKay says “We are very, very close to proving that there is or has been life there.” New tools for examining Martian meteorites are said to have improved the evidence for traces of microscopic life. Evidence has turned up in three different meteorites of Martian origin, and some highly sophisticated experiments are planned. Also, there’s the question of the continuously replenished supply of methane in the Martian atmosphere. A new study has cast doubt on the possibility of the methane being delivered by meteorites. The two other most probable sources are reactions between volcanic rock and water, or microorganisms.

Death
NASA’s magnificent Mars rover, Spirit, has been stuck in sand since May, 2009. Two of its six wheels aren’t functioning. Every move seems to embed it deeper into the sand. Could this be the end? If its controllers can’t manage to shift Spirit into a position for good solar energy charging, it could be finished by May of this year. Winter is approaching and sunlight is dimming. After six years, however, I’m reluctant to make any predictions. Maybe Spirit will live to be a stationary research station for a long time.

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