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The Quest for Life Elsewhere – Rationale for a Space Program?

24 Sep 2013, 14:52 UTC
The Quest for Life Elsewhere – Rationale for a Space Program?
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Should searching for extraterrestrial life be the primary goal of our space program?

Robotic missions to Mars, so far.
An interesting report in the Washington Post relates that the current Mars rover Curiosity has found no evidence for methane on that planet, a finding that contradicts some earlier reports of the presence of that gas in the martian atmosphere. The report goes on to say that this finding “disappointed” some members of the Curiosity science team. Supposedly after earlier studies detected methane in telescopic spectra, they had “high hopes” for a positive result from the Curiosity rover.
Various reactions to this revelation are interesting, as they suggest something about the current mania for the search for extraterrestrial life, as well as something about the ultimate rationale for our national space program. Whence comes this obsession and why does it drive our space efforts and dominate space news coverage? Science fiction dreams have long been a part of the space effort, with many working in the field receiving their first exposure to space topics via that medium played out in print, film and video. From bug-eyed Martians invading the Earth to slimy, acid-dripping killers stowed away aboard spacecraft, the obsession with ...

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