Is it a new Cold War-esque race after NASA announced it had found water on the surface of the Red Planet?
NASA’s announcement earlier this week that it has found water on the surface of Mars has sent the scientific community into a frenzy over whether life will be found next — and Americans and Russians are racing to be the first to find out in the next few years.
The huge announcement indicates that the water on the Red Planet wasn’t just a situation of some ice trapped deep below the surface or waters that existed billions of years ago, but something that is actually on the surface of the planet today and appears seasonally, based on the finding that there are salt streaks that were probably caused by water flows. Now, the next question is when will we determine that life ever existed on the planet, either today or back when there may have been oceans on its surface? It could be a matter of just a few years — and the Americans are once again racing the Russians to see who gets there first, according to an Examiner.com report.
It calls to mind the Cold War race between the two world rivals back when man first landed on the moon in the 1960s. However, this time around it certainly is a bit different — while Russia and the United States have clashed politically in recent years, it certainly is a far cry from the rivalry during the Cold War. And anyway, Russia will be partnering with firm United States allies in Europe — so it’s more of a friendly competition between scientists than anything else, and that might be a good thing for science.
Specifically, NASA expects to send a rover to Mars that will launch in 2020, and it will be similar to the Curiosity mission, except that it will be specifically focused on finding life. Two years later, in 2022, a team involving the Russians and European partners — Exomars — will send a rover that will drill into the soil to hunt for life. Now that we have loads of orbiters and probes already on the planet, and we know where the water is, scientists think it’s time for us to check the most likely places for signs of biological life. And that’s why in five to seven years, science may make its greatest discovery yet — or find another dead end and start having to look elsewhere again for life beyond Earth.