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Title    : The Martians, Part 2
Author : Unknown
Date    :

A night bird called among the ruins as they walked. Dad said,"Your mother and
I will try to teach you. Perhaps we'll fail. I hope not. We've had a good lot
to see and learn from. We planned this trip years ago, before you were born.
Even if there hadn't been a war we would have come to Mars, I think, to live
and form our own standard of living. It would have been another century
before Mars would have been really poisoned by the Earth civilization. Now,
of course----"

They reached the canal. It was long and straight and cool and wet and
reflective in the night.

"I've always wanted to see a Martian," said Michael. "where are they, dad?
You promised."

"There they are," said Dad, and he shifted Michael on his shoulder and
pointed straight down.

The Martians were there. Timothy began to shiver.

The Martians were there -- in the canal -- reflected in the water, Timothy
and Michael and Robert and Mom and Dad.

The Martians stared back up at them for a long, long, silent time from the
rippling water....
(The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury)

Previous Feature: The Martians, Part 1

The First Probes

During the great Earth war of the 1940s known as World War Two, one of the
human nations (Actually one of the nations that was eventually defeated,
called Germany), took technology called rocketry that had been developed
earlier in the century and turned it into a potentially deadly weapon, one
that would deliver an explosive through the air to a target at a great
distance away. A rocket is a type of engine that carries both its propellant
and the oxygen needed to burn it, so that it need not necessarily operate in
air. A rocket produces thrust, or forward motion, by reaction to a backward
expulsion of hot gases at very high velocity. The weapon that the Germans
developed was called the V-2 rocket, and after the war, the German rocket
expert Werner von Braun and some of his associates, along withcaptured V-2
rockets, were taken to one of the victorious nations known as the United
States of America, while other German rocket experts were taken to another of
the victorious countries known as the Soviet Union.

In the decades following the war, the United States and the Soviet Union
became involved in a competition to develop the new space technology,
including the sending of probes to the planets, as well in a deadly
competition to develop rockets for the purpose of delivering horrendous
weapons known as nuclear bombs. (This was all part of something that
historians called The Cold War. This was to differentiate it from the
previous war, which was finally ended by the use of the first atomic bombs.
That war was a Hot War.)

The first successful attempt by a human nation to launch a device into space
using a rocket was by the Soviets in 1957 and was a device called the
Sputnik, an artificial satellite that orbited the Earth and transmitted data
to the ground. The Soviets were also the first to successfully launch a probe
toward Mars, in November, 1962. The launch was timed to take advantage of a
close approach of Mars that would occur in January, 1963. The probe was
called Mars 1. "Successful" is perhaps an overstatement, because
communications with the probe were lost when it was 106 million kilometers
away from Earth in March, 1963. It flew uselessly past Mars at a distance of
195,000 kilometers in June, 1963.

The Americans, later in entering the competition than the Soviets, had
successfully launched a probe to the cloud-covered second planet, the one
they called Venus, in 1962, which had shown that planet to be quite
inhospitable in spite of its name(Venus was the Roman goddess of love and
beauty.). Their first Mars probe failed to reach the proper orbit, but the
second probe, Mariner 4, reached orbit around the Earth on November 28, 1964
and functioned properly. The Soviets also launched another Mars probe, called
Zond 2, on November 30, 1964.

The Soviets experienced a repeat of their failed Mars 1 mission and lost
contact with Zond 2 in May, 1965. America's Mariner 4 was more successful,
and flew relatively near Mars on July 14, 1965. Its camera obtained
twenty-two images which, although they were of rather poor quality, showed
that Mars looked strikingly like the Moon. Surprising everyone, Mars' surface
appeared to be old and covered with craters, with no canals in sight. The
probe also was able to measure the atmospheric pressure on the surface, which
was shown to be very low and due to a thin atmosphere almost completely
consisting of carbon dioxide. Scientists who analyzed the results said that
liquid water could not have existed on Mars for billions of years and that
the polar ice caps were likely frozen carbon dioxide rather than water ice.
Suddenly life on Mars seemed highly questionable. The next two American Mars
probes, Mariners 6 and 7, in 1969, confirmed the bad news that Mariner 4 had
delivered. The air pressure was very low, the dark areas were heavily
cratered, and the temperature at the Martian South Pole was -123� C, the
temperature to be expected if the pole consisted of frozen carbon dioxide.

As it turned out, however, humans had only glimpsed the worst of Mars.
Generalizations based on these early probes were as incorrect as Lowell's
canals and vegetation had been.

The next American probe, Mariner 9, was launched on May 30, 1971, and
successfully placed in its transfer orbit for Mars. There had been two probes
launched, but Mariner 8 had failed to reach orbit. The programming of Mariner
9 was adjusted to compensate so that it would take over some of the functions
of the failed probe, but this was at the expense of some of its own planned
duties. The Russians also launched Mars probes. One of these failed, but Mars
2 was launched on May 19, and Mars 3 was launched on May 28.

Mars was not willing to cooperate with the Earth probes. Just as they neared
the planet, the worst dust storms in years obscured the surface, making
photographic survey next to useless. The Americans' Mariner 9 arrived in
orbit in November and was immediately shut down to conserve its batteries and
to wait out the storms. The Soviet craft were not to be so lucky. They could
not be shut down in this manner because they had been preprogrammed to
fulfill their functions as soon as they entered Mars orbit. They launched two
smaller probes that were intended to soft land on the surface. The first one
crashed into the surface; the second landed, turned on its camera, and then
went silent. Both were likely casualties of the storms. Meanwhile, the
orbital components of the Soviet craft busily snapped photos of a blank,
featureless dust storm until their power was gone.

America's Mariner 9 slept, biding its time, and after a month the dust
subsided enough for it to begin its task of mapping the surface. Its first
pictures were as surprising as those of the earlier probes had been, but in a
different way. They showed giant volcanoes such as Olympus Mons, the tallest
mountain in the entire solar system, and a canyon that extended a quarter of
the way around the planet. The photos also showed what appeared to be dry
riverbeds. Mars once had liquid water! Continued surveying showed that Mars
seemed to divided into two distinct sections. Southern Mars consisted of
ancient, heavily cratered highlands; northern Mars of younger, smoother
plains and volcanic features.

Viking and the "Face"

For the humans, the possibility of life on Mars was beginning to look rosy
again. Water had been present, at least in the past, and might still be
beneath the surface in the form of permafrost. On August 20 and September 8,
1975, two spacecraft called Viking 1 and Viking 2 were launched toward Mars
by America. For these two craft, the search for evidence of life was their
dominant, although not their only, purpose. The two craft consisted of two
parts, an orbiter and a lander. The landers touched down softly and
successfully transmitted photos of the areas known as Chryse and Utopia. They
carried sets of three experiments designed to detect microbial life in the
soil of Mars. Two of the experiments gave positive results, while the third
did not. This puzzling outcome was finally decided to be the result of the
actions of certain types of clay that can mimic, to some extent, microbial
action on nutrient solutions. The organic chemistry tests that Viking also
did on soil samples yielded even worse results. No organic chemicals were

At first glance, the photos sent back by the orbiting components of the
Viking craft, while awesome to human scientists, were not heartening to those
humans looking for evidence of Martians. At least, not at first. There were,
however, a couple of frames that showed something that looked like a "face".
The American National Aeronautics and Space Administration dismissed them as
a "trick of light." However, in 1979, two computer scientists with no
particular expertise in Martian geology, Vincent DiPietro and Gregory
Molenaar, who were working for a contractor at NASA, came across frame 35A72
while going through the Viking photo archives. They computer enhanced the
image and concluded that the Face was not a trick of light after all. They
also found several mountains that looked like "pyramids" near the Face, and
published a book calling attention to the structures. One pyramid, on frame
70A13, was later named the "D&M" pyramid after DiPietro and Molenaar. Over
the next decade, others found what they said were "cities" and other
structures in the Viking images. The debate raged.

In the meantime, a Russian probe and an American probe mysteriously stopped
transmitting just as they entered Mars orbit. These events added fuel to the
controversy about the "face".

Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor

In 1997, the Americans' Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars and the little rover
on board called Sojourner captured the imagination of the humans as it moved
about from rock to rock, although it found no sign of life. The arrival,
later in 1997, of its sister probe, the Mars Global Surveyor, was awaited
anxiously, because NASA had promised the public that they would make a
special effort to photograph the "face". They did so, but to everyone's
disappointment, it no longer looked like a face. With the light coming from a
different direction, it looked more like a giant muddy footprint than a face.
Here is a comparison of the Viking and Global Surveyor images from Malin
Space Systems.

In 1996, NASA scientists shocked the scientific world with claims that they
had found fossil evidence of life in a Martian meteorite that had been
discovered at Antarctica. The meteorite was found in 1984 in Antarctica's
Allan Hills ice field and designated ALH84001. It was only in 1993 that
scientists determined, on the basis of chemical analysis of gases trapped
inside it, that the 4.5-billion-year-old rock was blasted away from Mars and
floated through space until it fell to Earth. Tiny worm-like structures,
resembling fossilized bacteria found on Earth, were found inside the
meteorite. The jury, however, is still out on whether these tiny structures
are proof of Martian life. No solid vedict on these claims has been reached.

Humans have not yet given up hopes of finding some form of life on Mars.
There is solid evidence that Mars was once more Earth-like, warmer and with
oceans and rivers. There is water ice at the poles, and some of the violent
storms near the poles contain water ice crystals, as this Hubble image shows.
There is sometimes frost or snow on the Martian surface even away from the
poles, and there may be water permafrost beneath the surface.

Coming Soon

The Mars Global Surveyor is still active, and two more probes are on the way:
The Mars Climate Orbiter, which will arrive at Mars on September 23, 1999,
and the Mars Polar Lander, which will spend 11 months in transit, entering
Mars' atmosphere December 3, 1999. The Mars Polar Lander is carrying a
piggyback payload consisting of two devices called Microprobes. The
Microprobes will blast themselves deep into the Martian surface near the
poles, looking for water several meters below the surface. Finally, there are
plans for another mission in 2001 with an orbiter, a lander, and a rover,
called Mars Global Surveyor 2001.

What if no life is found by any of the probes? Humans have the technology,
and they might, if the expense can be justified, someday send a manned
expedition to Mars, whether evidence of life is found or not.


Many Earth scientists are beginning to think in terms of making Mars
habitable by humans in the future, by a process known as terraforming.
Terraforming is, literally, the process of making Mars more like the Earth.
This would involve:

Warming Mars up. Although Pathfinder found the daytime temperature to reach
70� F, the nighttime temperatures plunge to -100� F.
Giving Mars more atmosphere. The air pressure on Mars is as low as 1/100th
that of Earth.
Putting more oxygen in the atmosphere.
Making liquid water readily available.
Providing protection from the strong ultraviolet rays bombarding the planet.
Introducing life on Mars.
Most of the speculation about terraforming Mars involves (1)warming the
planet first. Two main ideas are proposed. One is to cover the surface, or at
least the poles, with some sort of dark dust, perhaps mined from one of Mars'
moons. The darker color would absorb more heat and raise the surface
temperature. The second idea is to place giant mirrors in orbit around Mars
to focus light & heat from the sun on the poles. Either way, the idea is to
melt the frozen carbon dioxide that is at the poles. The additional carbon
dioxide thus released into the atmosphere would increase the atmospheric
pressure and would also increase the greenhouse effect and warm Mars even
more. Both of these would contribute to making liquid water available(4), and
as Mars gradually warmed even more, then water vapor would be produced, which
would also contribute to giving Mars an atmosphere(2). As Mars warmed, the
water ice in the permafrost beneath the surface would melt, and surface water
would form lakes and rivers and maybe even seas. A thicker atmosphere would
have better heat-retaining capability, which would help to reduce the large
drop in temperature at night. Another option that is sometimes mentioned is
to introduce CFCs(chlorofluorocarbons) into the atmosphere. However, these
chemicals would work against the later formation of an ozone layer, which is
what would be needed for (5).

The next step, and one that is fascinating, is to introduce life, especially
one particular form of life known as blue-green algae(6). This particular
form of algae can exist at a wide range of temperatures, and it converts
carbon dioxide into oxygen rather well(3). More oxygen means more atmospheric
pressure, plus, the UV rays would react with the oxygen in the upper
atmosphere to produce ozone, and that would produce the beginnings of an
ozone layer to provide some protection from those UV rays themselves(5). In a
few thousand years, Mars would be warm enough, wet enough, and have enough
oxygen to support an ecosystem, particularly at the bottoms of deep craters,
where the atmospheric pressure would be highest. Humans might then put
colonies in the deeper craters or underground and they might even dig a
series of canals to bring water in for agriculture. The settlers would likely
still have to wear some sort of protective clothing and breathing apparatus,
at least until they had adapted to life on Mars, if that ever became
possible. There is a series of slides depicting how terraforming might
gradually change Mars at: Future of Mars.

Of course, the humans might find that some type of life already exists on
Mars. What then? Terraforming would probably destroy it. Would humans have
any right to do so, even if the only life they found were some form of
bacteria in the soil?

Hey, tell me what you think! Is there life on Mars? Post it on the
UFOs/Aliens Bulletin Board

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