Why explore Mars?
JPL manages the NASA Mars Exploration Program (MEP) for NASA. This Program has been carrying out a series of robotic missions for a number of years to explore Mars. The great success of the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover missions has shown that autonomous rovers can traverse the surface of Mars and make important scientific observations within limited areas. As a result, an ambitious long-range plan for in situ exploration has been developed by the MEP based on a consensus of views of leading Mars scientists. The highest priority goal is the search for life (past or present) on Mars. For example, a JPL website deals with: “Why Explore Mars?” This website argues:
“After Earth, Mars is the planet with the most hospitable climate in the solar system. So hospitable that it may once have harbored primitive, bacteria-like life. Outflow channels and other geologic features provide ample evidence that billions of years ago liquid water flowed on the surface of Mars. Although liquid water may still exist deep below the surface of Mars, currently the temperature is too low and the atmosphere too thin for liquid water to exist at the surface.
Did life occur on another planet in our own solar system?
What are the minimal conditions necessary for the formation of life?”
Search for evidence of past life.
Explore hydrothermal habitats. (Potential for discovery of evidence of past and present life is greatly improved.)
Search for present life.
Explore evolution of Mars.
KeywordsSolar System Liquid Water Hydrothermal Vent Past Life Present Life
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