At first when I heard from BBC News that Russia’s latest experiment in cosmetology had gone awry, I said to myself, “Ha! Ha! The Russkies screwed up again!” Now that I’ve taken a few minutes to think about it, I’m disheartened. First of all, it is through coöperation with space programs that nations can pull together, rather than increase the divide. Secondly, the purpose of this mission was to gather dust samples from Mars’ second, tiny moon Phobos and bring them back to Earth for study. Many astronomers think that Phobos is an asteroid that was captured into Mars’ orbit. The human race might learn quite a bit about how our solar system was formed from those few bits of dust. I hope that they can salvage the mission. Another sad point to make: China’s first Martian satellite was riding piggy back on this mission, so that means more opportunities for scientific inquiry are at risk of being lost.
It’s bad enough that Italy’s debt crisis is wreaking havoc on world markets. It would have been nice to find out information about our close neighbor in the sky that wasn’t a downer. I firmly believe that life on Earth would not have occurred without some Martian rocks landing here. We already know that rocks of Martian provenance did land on Earth. They were the result of asteroids bombarding Mars a billion years (give or take) ago when the Red Planet was warmer and wetter. The rocks floated around until they got pulled into Earth’s orbit and landed in Antarctica, and other places around the globe. It’s the Antarctic rock that contains what appear to be bacterial fossils. How interesting is that?