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An Exobiological Strategy for Mars ExplorationThe idea of searching for evidence of life on Mars may strike some as far-fetched, even fanciful. But there is a compelling logic to such a quest, as well as an equally compelling excitement. Early environments were apparently sufficiently similar on Mars and Earth, and life arose so rapidly on Earth once conditions became clement, that emergence of life on both planets at that time is scarcely less plausible than emergence on only one. Furthermore, although a fossil on Mars might seem at first like a proverbial needle in a haystack, experience on Earth tell us that if we know where to look, finding evidence of ancient life is not particularly difficult, especially when one considers that such evidence can be relatively widely disseminated in the form of chemical or isotopic signatures. The key is to recognize that the search for ancient life on Mars will involve a logically designed sequence of missions, each of which will focus on defining ever more closely where and how biosignatures may be found. Although one can never rule out a chance discovery, this quest should not be approached as one that will yield to a single, expeditious mission. (In fact, the proposed strategy lends itself particularly well to the use of a series of relatively small, inexpensive spacecraft, rather than a single flagship-class mission). The search for life on Mars will take time and commitment, but the reward could be a discovery of inestimable importance, not just to science, but to humanity as a whole.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Special Publication (SP)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 1995
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Exploration
Report/Patent Number
NAS 1.22:530
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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