Thursday, June 19, 2008, was the day that NASA scientists and the University of Arizona’s Phoenix Lander mission team have been waiting for, a day when newly found ice layers on Mars offer to the world actual scientific evidence there has been water on the red planet at some time, handing over the golden key that life forms on some level have developed and lived there. Early on Thursday morning, the Phoenix’s Robotic Arm began digging in a trench different than the previous trench it had been digging since landing on the red planetDodo-Goldilockswhere little pieces of hard white material have been seen from the first landing of the Phoenix, slowly disappearing over days until they have completely vanished and melted.
The appearance of these melting and dissolving hard white particles had convinced mission leader Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, that it was ice, even though many scientists thought it could possibly be salt. To verify this theory even more, when the Phoenix’s Robotic Arm began digging in the new Wonderland site, it hit a firm layer which caused the arm to enter into a “holding position” after three attempts. This has been fully expected by the scientists, designed as a sign the lander has hit something extremely hard and is not penetrable.
Even though the entire mission has evolved around this find of finding the water or water-ice, when it finally did occur a software patch was required by Denver’s Lockheed Martin Space Systems to send to the Phoenix in order to save scientific data overnight as needed. This is a major safety issue compared to its original plan of storing data in the flash memory of the Phoenix, now able to download it on a daily basis, due to the duplicate file-maintained data issue that recently developed causing an overload of data.
With so many scientists and space professionals thrilled at this find of ice, many individuals still are asking themselves why spend all the money through NASA and the “search for water on Mars”? A better question is, “Why do we want to go to Mars anyway?” The answer is we need to look at where we are going and where we have been to save our planet. If Mars had water in its past, where did it go-and will we go through the same process as our planets are very similar? All these answers can be answered by those little bits of hard white crumbs found in the Martian trenches, believe it or not, and without waterneither planet will have life.