Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Awaits On Mars - 1957 Versus 2008

When the first space probes sent back detailed pictures of the Martian Surface, years of fanciful speculation by filmmakers, writers, and artists were replaced with cold facts. Mars resembled the deserts of the Southwest United States, not the exotic plains imagined by science fiction. Mars was more Arizona than Barsoom.

Paleo-Future features a fine example of the 1950's vision martian life: a furry creature with an anteater-like snout. Considering this was the era of cold-war paranoia, with drive-in screens offering a barage of hostile communist-like aliens bent on destroying our cities, this fuzzy Dr. Seuss-esque martian looks harmless and cuddly.

On May 25, 2008, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander will touch down on the arctic plains of Mars. The Phoenix Mars Lander will use sensors to "sniff" the soil for chemicals and try to determine whether conditions at the site ever have been favorable for microbial life.

Microbes are not as exciting as the ALF-like creature in the 1950s illustration. Any sign of life on Mars would be big news. If a little creature did emerge from the rocks and waved to the camera, it would be the shock of the century...not to mention a chance for toy companies to cash in selling plush dolls.

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