The Phoenix Lander has a real ability to mine into the surface of Mars in a way that other rovers have not. It can create trenches that give a much wider view of what lies beneath the surface of the red planet. The discovery of frozen water on Mars that apparently sometimes warms enough to melt in direct sunlight is a major development.
In this solar system, which we are slowly uncovering its many secrets, the one constant seems to be that without water there is no life. On earth, life has been found to exist without oxygen or sunlight. We have found plants near deep ocean trenches that manufacture food from heat and chemical reactions rather than light. Bacteria and fungi are often able only to thrive when no or minimal oxygen is present. The one constant has been that if there is no water, there is no life.
Water on Mars opens up the real possibility that some form of life may have had a chance on the planet before it cooled and died. It may even mean that life could still be there on or below the surface generating its own heat to melt the ice and access water. While it is too soon to make too many ventures into the world of conjecture, the idea of life on Mars is at least possible.
As the Phoenix Lander continues to dig into the somewhat frozen landscape of the planets surface, scientists are anxiously awaiting the news of whether the complex molecules that signal elemtary life forms are found. If these are found, a serious look at many issues on earth will be needed. This is especially true in the religious world. It will surely provide fodder for a new round of debate on creationism versus evolution for the origins of earth life.
The cost of this mission will be considered a real bargain if one life form can be discovered. Scientific discovery will have taken that giant leap into space in a single bound. New interest in this discovery will generate the support and financing needed for a real manned mission to this planet. With water available, water and atmosphere can be easily generated to build a sustainable station for living and working on the surface of Mars by human beings.
Phoenix is now the beginning of a real Star Trek adventure. It is boldly seeking out new life. If it finds it, civilizations will be the next target. Humanity is growing into a new age. Let’s see where this little Martian visitor can take us next.