Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mars, Martians and (dry) ice

Though not so much as Sergey, Larry and Richard trio are obsessed, most of us has a crush on a potential Martian trip. For now, the little but sophisticated machines are enjoying the whole glory, Phoenix being the latest, with a price of their life. We have a reason to be excited, however, that is, Mars is the closest to being a second Earth and also closeby. It has almost the same length of a day (24 hours and 37 minutes) but roughly twice long of a year (687 Earth days).

A Martian expedition, which presumably will yield a colony, doesn't only mean more space for excess population but also the Martian resources may prove to be lucrative. The "Red" planet has huge amounts of iron (III) oxide and that of CO2 (both beneath and above the surface) good enough to make steel if energy is provided. Lower gravity may enable larger spacecrafts to be built and take off contrary to Earth and thus, real space exploration (if not the wars) may start.

Speaking of CO2, Phoenix got some ice deposits uncovered with its tiny arms (see the picture on the left - courtesy of NASA and University of Arizona) and the cameras captured the disappearance of ice by evaporation. This ice is mainly solid carbon dioxide although there are hopes for water. In any case, the discovery of ice is what they were after -as simple as it sounds but a very important step- and that's what they have found.

There's still so much more to be done before we blast off shuttles full of homo sapiens and maybe we should think about our current planet a little more than the distant, reddish, unknown, cold beast called Mars.

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