This is an actual hard science post today for a change. I don’t usually do them, even though I love the hard sciences like biology, astronomy and physics. I may not understand them as much as I do the social and psychological arts (I don’t consider them sciences, even though I have a degree in them), but that’s one of the reasons I do this blog.
Anyway, the Phoenix Lander made it to Mars this past Saturday. It touched down at the Martian North Polar region around 7:53 p.m. EDT, most importantly in one piece. It was the first American probe powered landing on Mars since the twin Viking Landers over 30 years ago. The last three probes that landed safely (Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity) are rovers and they touched down using rockets and giant air-bags. Spirit and Opportunity are still giving NASA and the U.S. taxpayer their moneys’ worth amazingly enough.
The Phoenix is different in that it doesn’t rove anywhere, it just sits in one spot. Its’ job is to dig and drill into the hard permafrost soil to take samples and ‘cook’ them in multiple experiments designed to find trace organic compounds, basically what Vikings I and II did. In this case, unlike Viking, the icy permafrost soil Phoenix is going to test has water in it. The Viking probes landed around the Mars equator where all the water is evaporated (sublimed) out. Basically the ground there is sterile. Hopefully at the polar regions where there are known amounts of water, extremophile microscopic lifeforms are presently living in the ice, or once lived there. Bets are on the former.
Also Phoenix is part of the ‘faster, cheaper, better’ B.S. that NASA has been forced to do the past three decades, since most of the funding went to the shuttle and space station programs. Even so, just 1/6 of 1% of the national budget funds NASA, though most Americans think (propagandized) they get much more. The military-industrial-congressional complex receives 60% of the budget (f*cking wake up sheeple!). That’s who you should hit up for your money to feed the poor! Anyway, so the Phoenix project had to cut corners that Viking didn’t have to. Scientists had to think of creative ways to get their various experiments on board cheaply, which meant determining where, how to cut corners and take chances. Naturally, that increases the failure rate. The Mars Polar Lander and another orbital probe failed in 1999, victims of cost cutting (though one was human error). Case in point, the original cost of Phoenix was $240 million, but overruns brought it up to $420 million. But the cost of the Viking I and II landers in 2008 dollars was $3 billion ! Get the point?
So you see that even landing the damn thing was an accomplishment given the past track record of all the probes (Russian, European and American) that were shot at Mars, of which 50% failed. NASA and JPL needed a public relations success as well as a landing one!
Kudos mainstream scientists! I hope you get to find your Martian microbes so you can meme the sheeple into believing that ET life does exist.
Us tinfoilers are getting a little lonely out here!