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The exploration of our solar system and beyond by man himself and not the robotic machines sent out from the Earth to gather data has one flaw that has not yet been solved, it is the question of “Life support”. If man is to travel the vast distances between alien worlds then three things are vital to his survival, food, breathable air and water. At present all three have to be provided at the point of departure and sustained throughout any mission to ensure that an astronaut can be recovered safely to the home planet. The duration of any manned mission is to a large extent governed by the provision of these three requirements and a great deal of available payload of any mission is consumed by both life support and the fuel required to complete the journey. In much the same way as man first traversed the deserts of his own world the space traveller will have to “Steer his course” using the available watering holes of the solar system. Only when these sources of water have been found and charted will man be able to reach for the stars. They are the oasis’s of space and mans exit route from this solar system to the next will be governed by where they are found. It may be taken as read that there will not be water on all of the planets or their moons in our solar system but two likely prospects are Mars [the Earth’s nearest neighbour] and at least one of Jupiter’s moons but in order for man to take the “Next giant leap” into space that water has to be located.

There are currently two “Rovers” exploring the Martian surface for a source of water, for man to actually go there and search for water would be both time consuming and dangerous, time consuming because Mars is a big place and surface water ceased to exist a long time ago so wherever the expected bounty of water is it will most probably be deep under the Martian surface and to extract it will most likely involve drilling for it. Dangerous because it will take longer to find the water than any explorer could possibly carry and they would therefore die of thirst long before it was found. The Rovers have been looking for water for three years but as yet have not found any. The Australian deserts were a similar problem, surface water was scarce but when it was realised that water existed below the searing heat of the desert artesian wells allowed livestock and human habitation. It is possible that the only water left on Mars is deep underground and drilling to extract it the only way it can be used. The two Martian Rovers “Opportunity” and “Spirit” began their search for water three years ago [3 Earth years] neither of the Rovers was expected to last longer than 90 “Sols” [a Sol is one Martian day] On Earth a day is taken, as 24 hours on Mars it is slightly longer at 24 hours and 39 minutes. The current status of the Opportunity explorer mission is 1087 sols whilst the Spirit explorer mission has survived for 1107 sols. There is a widely held belief in the scientific community that if something can go wrong it will if the target planet is Mars, there is almost an acceptance that there is a “Mars Curse” but these two missions [and both began as separate missions] have for some unexplained reason “Thwarted the curse”. Missions to Mars usually end with the loss of communication with the vessel sent there. Both Rovers are powered by solar panels and it is thought that the frequent sand storms on Mars have kept the solar panels clean and functioning though Opportunity did stop working for a while it somehow recovered. Recent upgrades to the computers on both missions have increased their capabilities. To date Opportunity has covered around 10 km whilst Spirit has done nearly 7 km but it is the pictures being sent back to Earth via the orbiter that are funding speculation that the surface of Mars was once a place where water flowed in rivers into lakes and possibly seas. The pictures show clearly the ravages of water erosion on Mars, deep valleys cut through canyons of hard rock very similar to the effects of erosion here on Earth that can be seen in the Grand Canyon in the USA and wherever water has forged its way through mountains. The question exorcising these scientific minds is a simple one, “If the water did exist where did it go?” Water is matter and a universal law of nature is that matter can neither be created or destroyed it can only be converted and if that is so then the water is still there we just have not found it yet.

Of course it is just possible that the twenty first century prophecy of global warming on Earth has already taken place on Mars and perhaps creatures not unlike homo-sapien once lived there too. If they were anything like man they would not have listened both as the greenhouse gases destroyed the ozone and displaced whatever passed for atmosphere.  As the planet heated all life would have ceased and left what? Vast mountainous deserts of barren landscape where the water seeped though rock fissures into subterranean caverns far below the surface. Their technology [if it existed] was more than likely advanced as we are now, taking its first steps into space and beyond so perhaps they were able to make it to the next planet and start all over again, but you know where that is don’t you? Earth!  Okay, Okay its fanciful but it would explain the so called “Missing link” and no predecessor to man has ever been found that is older than 100,000 years, is that not around the time that it is thought that water existed on Mars?

Question. Is man an indigenous creature of the Earth or a fugitive from another planet within our solar system? The terrifying answer is possibly.

But I digress; On Mars the search for a source of water is of paramount importance not least because no known living creature can survive without it and if it is found then man will occupy two planets of our solar system. But water will also enable the manufacture of fuel, which is also a large consideration for an outstation that will for many years be at the frontier of the colonisation of the solar system. One of the Rovers has been tasked to search an area near the Martian equator whilst the other is deployed near the southern pole. It is thought that the most likely place that water could be found is near the South Pole where there is some form of ice but whether that is methane-based ice or carbon dioxide based is not yet clear. The machines sent to explore the planet have so far led a charmed life and when one of them failed to respond some time ago it came as no surprise to the scientific back up team on Earth, there have been many missions to Mars and more end in failure than success whether they are of Russian or American origin. The “Red planet” as it is sometimes called is a graveyard littered with robotic exploration machines that could not survive the harsh Martian climate. If Mars did once have rivers it is more than likely that vegetation existed there too and if that is so it may well have had an atmosphere, just how far evolution on Mars had advanced can only be speculation but if it did once have an atmosphere what became of it? Other possibilities include a meteor shower of such proportions that it stripped the ozone layer from the planet or an asteroid collision, there is more than enough evidence to support the premise. Maybe there is a more “Home Grown” explanation. The planet Mars has the largest volcano to be found on any planet in the solar system and the most virulent sand storms, perhaps that volcano once erupted with such a force that the debris encircled the planet in dust trapping the enormous heat inside, no life could have survived, starved of light, encased in heat and with nothing to breathe but a poisonous atmosphere. Curiously, Teran’s [Earth people] have always maintained that “Little green men” come from Mars but so far nothing green has been found there.


Posted: February 21, 2007 ,   Modified: February 21, 2007

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