Mars Phoenix Lander
Being a bit of a space cadet, I have been following the operations of NASA’s latest venture (Phoenix) to our red neighbor, Mars. For a bit of primer, NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander is a stationary science lab that landed on Mars on May 25.
Among the various instruments, there is a robotic arm for taking soil samples, a chemistry lab to analyze soil compositions and a Canadian-made weather system that will be used for measuring wind speed, air pressure and temperature. Now, we’ll be able to know what the weather is like for Mars!
After several weeks of checkout, Phoenix began operations and on June 25 conducted the first chemistry test of a soil sample. Much to the surprise and delight of researchers, the test results indicated that the soil was capable of supporting life… In fact, they concluded that you could probably grow asparagus in it! This exciting news came one week after the lander had discovered water in the same area. Well, if you have water and viable soil, the next logical question is:
“Is there life on Mars?”
I find the news of ice and soil to be exciting but it is still too early to conclude whether or not there is life on our namesake planet. I am joining other scientists in thinking that Mars is now proving to be a possible terraforming target. As long shield the harmful UV rays, you would have an environment on which plant life can grow. Being able to grow your own food paves the path towards colonization.
Just imagine, one day you could have a piece of Mars to call your own!
The Phoenix mission is a showcase for Canadian technology and scientific expertise. To learn more about Canada’s meteorological station, including live weather reports for the “cottage,” check out the Canadian Space Agency and the Phoenix Mars Mission websites.
You may want to also check out “Facing Mars,” a hands-on, interactive exhibition at the Ontario Science Centre.