Early sections are a bit frustrating in watching the scientists try to think
how life could form in Mars' current condition, rather than the conditions
that might have existed long ago.
Things pick up as the documentary recounts the five probes getting information
from Mars, and details them being joined by the sixth probe Phoenix as it lands in 2008
near the frozen north polar region. We also get a good idea of how mission specialists
deal with the time delay in communicating with probes on the surface, sending
packets of instructions at a time to the robots, and receiving data and results
much later, wondering if the robot made it through all the instructions okay,
or if it encountered a glitch or unexpected circumstance at some point.
Highlights include evidence that suggests liquid water may exist on the surface during
certain unique events (in contradiction of suspected atmospheric pressure requirements),
the slight conditional debunking of some conclusions drawn from the 1970's Viking mission,
and that one of three explanations for the existence of surface methane might indicate
sub-surface life. The four suspected major geological phases of Mars are also described
in fairly good detail.
Alex Filippenko seems to be the strongest voice of control propaganda in this one,
which turns his usual smile quite creepy, and makes me wonder WHY we need
to assume there is no life until proven otherwise. Would we not act more respectfully
towards solar system environments if we assumed there is life until proven otherwise?
(In fact perhaps this is the case in our attitude towards Jupiter's moon Europa, as we have
so far been very careful to eliminate all possibilities of contaminating its atmosphere with
any of our probes, while having carelessly smashed probes into many other bodies in
the solar system.)
But looking past that caveat of extreme scientific doubt dominating
the documentary's voice, there is a lot of interesting new raw information in this
episode, and good coverage on how scientists interpret their findings and come up
with new questions to ask about Mars.
Narrator: "Even as some scientists are claiming Mars doesn't have lightning,
Earth-based microwave detectors find it in friction-filled storms of red dust."
And the "Ask the Universe" question for this episode is...
"What makes part of one planet fly off and land on another?"
- Kristina M., Dallas, Texas.
from the disc sleeve:
Mars: The New Evidence:
In the last few years, the Red Planet has yielded many clues that life
may once have existed on Mars - and may exist there today. Most intriguing of all though,
are the seasonal plumes of methane that may point to bacteria living below the surface.
- Searching for Life
- Water on Mars
- Shaping of Mars
- Meteorite Clues
- Martian Methane