Saturday September 15, 2012
Will we find life on Mars?
By DANIEL KHOO
Space exploration has always captured human imagination with its infinite galaxies and solar systems, while the many theories about existence of life on other planets never fails to pique mankind's imagination until today. Indeed the launch of the Curiosity rover to Mars last month by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aims to do just that: to search for signs of life on the red planet.
This highly expensive search cost NASA about RM7.68bil (US$2.5bil). Despite the global economic recession, the Curiosity rover shows the insatiable quest for extraterrestrial life is important to enable us to reach the next frontier in technological knowledge and development.
The launch of the Curiosity rover to the planet Mars on Aug 6 has been followed very closely by many people including myself.
I followed the events through a live streaming feed through my smartphone during lunch time.
Curiosity's journey to Mars has not been an easy feat mind you, given that the rover is the fourth robot to be launched from earth while the time span for this latest journey to the red planet took a staggering 11 months.
This goes to show despite the exponential technological advances mankind has achieved over the past 100 years, it is still not up to par with the high technological standards that are required for space exploration.
NASA states in its fact sheet that Curiosity's assignment is to investigate whether conditions have been favourable for microbial life and for preserving clues in the rocks on Mars about possible past life.
Indeed the possibilities are infinite should Curiosity eventually find microbial life on Mars, and this may also hold the key to preserving the future of the human race today given that most of the modern civilisation's edifice today is due to how we are able to put petroleum to its full potential.
The many types of hydrocarbons which petroleum is derived from is needed not only as a fuel source but hydrocarbons are also required in many materials and industries we commonly require today including plastics, fertilisers, alcohol and medicine.
Given that petroleum is a finite resource here on earth, the presence of microbial life on other planets such as Mars could hold the key to the future of mankind including our very continued existence.