Work in the Chilean desert by Arizona State University scientists has reopened debate regarding the biological origins of Martian silica fragments found in 2007 — and strengthened the case for life on Mars billions of years ago.
NASA’s Spirit rover churned up the opaline silica deposits as it explored the Columbia Hills area of Mars’s Gusev Crater.
We live in a golden age of Mars exploration, an era of unprecedented knowledge brought to us by ingenious rovers and probes. Already we have learned that our diminutive neighbor once held water and perhaps life. Future missions will help determine where that water went and seek evidence deep beneath the surface of living creatures. One day, we might even go there ourselves. But how much have you kept up on the latest developments?
Cosmos is back, and Neil deGrasse Tyson is tooling around the universe in Carl Sagan’s Ship of the Imagination. But suppose someone handed you the proverbial keys? Where in space and/or time would you go?
If you don’t have a ready answer, never fear. I’ve put together an itinerary that can’t fail, whether your tastes run to science or sightseeing. Sure, we might have to break a few physical laws and grow a few extra senses along the way but, hey, it’s not called the Ship of Literal Reality, is it? So hang your fuzzy planets from the rearview and strap in for a star-spanning tour, a jaunt from the local neighborhood to the unreachably distant (and disproportionately dangerous) corners of the universe, en route to…
Space travel isn’t all glamor: Body odor and bad breath hang around; food and filth float; emotional pressure builds; weightlessness degrades bone and muscles; the body experiences higher radiation levels; and risks of kidney stones and eye problems mount.
Clearly, astronauts require a pioneering spirit, but near-future space colonists will need more than guts and gusto to thrive en route to, and on, other worlds. What constitutes an ideal astronaut candidate? Should we select space travelers based on genetic risk factors? Could we train colonists from childhood to be better adapted, mentally and physically, to life in space? And would we be willing to go to the extreme of changing what it means to be human?
Like international waters, space is a commons usable by all but owned by none; but, unlike any earthly commons, space borders every country on the planet, and actual or metaphorical fallout from an incident there could spoil days — or destroy lives — anywhere on Earth.
So, who watches the spacemen? And what laws or treaties exist to protect us all? The answers might surprise you.