Re: Mars !!!

From: (Ginny)
Subject: Re: Mars !!!
Date: Mon, 28 Apr 1997 19:12:52 -0700 (PDT)

Thanks so much Ken, for your perspective!  Very Important issue-the money
dilemna and yes I think it should be discussed in the classroom. ginny

At 2:56 PM 4/28/97, Ken Edgett wrote:
>Dear Mars Educators,
>Greetings from sunny, warm, dry, Arizona.  I'm glad to hear the dates
>from Jan as to when LFM 2 will be rebroadcast-- because I missed it on
>the 24th...
>I spent this past weekend (April 24-27) in Houston (rainy! flooding!)
>at a conference about "Early Mars" and potenial for life on Mars.
>I told you last week in an email to expect a press conference on
>Sunday, April 27 after the conference ended... well, the press didn't
>come and the conference was cancelled.  Apparently, the press wasn't
>interested because the scientists at this meeting were not planning to
>"decide" if there "really is life on Mars".  The press doesn't understand
>the process of science.
>The meeting brought together a wide range of scientific disciplines
>that are all converging on the questions of the origin of life.  THAT is
>really what the search for life on Mars is really about-- how does
>life start on a planet, and can life be different than that which we
>have on Earth (i.e., is there only one way to do it?).
>People at this meeting included experts on the Early Earth-- people who
>study the few rock outcrops on Earth that are older than 2 billion years.
>It also included people who study the early climates of Earth and
>Mars (mainly using climate models and what info can actually be inferred
>from the rocks).  Others included experts on the issues of the origin of
>life, experts on Mars geology/geomorphology, people who study the
>Mars meteorites, people who are looking at microscopic organisms that
>live in "extreme" environments (e.g., black smokers, salty lakes), and
>people that study fossilized microbes.  (And more!).
>The conference was mainly a review of the state of knowledge in all
>of these widely different fields.  All of the participants (over 150
>people) were challenged to deal with information and knowledge far
>outside their normal range of experience.  Talk about interdisciplinary!!
>Here is the main thing I learned, and my main point for writing you
>this message:
>The people who presented and attended this workshop are all working at the
>cutting edges of their respective fields.  All of them are working on
>VERY BIG QUESTIONS (e.g., where does life come from?) with VERY LITTLE
>DATA to go on.  They are all working in fields that are short on funding
>(this is true all throughout science).  They are all doing clever and
>important science despite the data and funding limitations.  In each
>field, there are big controversies.  The most fascinating controversy
>revealed at the meeting (from the perspective of a Mars geologist, that
>is), was the question of "nanobacteria"-- small things that look
>like bacteria, but are too small to contain enough molecules to
>function as living organisms.  Despite the lack of funding, the lack
>of data, and the exciting controversies, the BIG QUESTIONS being
>asked are being addressed and can begin to be addressed because of
>new instruments and technologies that are only now becoming
>available that allow us to pursue these questions.
>It was very exciting, though it was also a difficult meeting to sit
>through.  The reason it was difficult--  no one in the room was
>an expert on all the topics presented.  No one can be an expert in
>*everything*.  And science doesn't have *everything* solved.  The more
>we look, the more questions we have.  Things are being discovered
>that we had no idea were even out there to be found.
>We live in amazing times.  I only wish the funding levels could keep
>up with the technology and intrigue.  Be aware, for example (and this
>was made painfully clear at the meeting), that the Mars Surveyor
>program is *really* being done on the CHEAP.  There are many questinos
>about Mars that CANNOT be addressed in the 1997-2005 timeframe, NOT
>because we don't know how, but because we don't have the money.  Money
>is a BIG constraint on the Mars program-- something worth considering
>in the classroom as you have kids design instruments or missions or
>think about Mars colonies, etc.  The cost to each person (man, woman,
>and child) in the United States for the Mars Surveyor Program is
>about 50 cents a year-- or about the cost of a foot-long sandwhich
>at Subway every 10 years.
>Ken Edgett
>Arizona Mars K-12 Education Program
>Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer