May 12, 2000
Fascination in Red
Since mankind walked erect and looked towards the heavens a sense of adventure and wonderment was born. Great inventors and discoverers have often been held up as heretics for their beliefs we have now proven. Borrowing from the past and looking towards the future, the American psyche has been intrigued with the possibilities our solar system has to offer. This has come at a price though. Both monetary and human losses have plagued NASA leading many to wonder if this exploration is worth the price, or if we are even being told the entire story.
In the 1600ís Galileo first decreed that the moon had two distinct types of terrain, the light colored highlands and peaks of the moon surface and the dark plains or pits. With the introduction of modern space exploration these theories have been proven and expanded upon. (Anzovin 90) But in his time Galileo was thought of as a heretic and was admonished for his beliefs in the Copernican system. The Copernican system places the sun at the center of the solar system with all known planets rotating around it. (Copernican System) However, it was believed in the 16th century that the Aristotelian or Ptolemaic system was correct, placing the Earth in the middle of the solar system with even the sun rotating around it. (Aristotelian/ Potlemaic System)
Galileoís beliefs of the Copernican system and even the surface of the moon were both proven in the 20th century. With modern space travel to the moon, astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin were able to retrieve moon rocks that helped aid in proving Galileo's first theories of the moon surface, as well as dismay many outlandish theories. One of these was from Thomas Gold, who believed the maria on the moon surface (the dark pits or creators seen by Galileo and others on earth) were actually electrostatically charged dust. He theorized that Aldrin and Armstrong were in grave danger of sinking the space explorer upon landing. (Anzovin 91) This of course did not happen, but many theories that once seemed strange, dangerous, even insane, in times past, have now been proven with modern technology. Will others be in a time far ahead of ours?
Research and a thirst for adventure has turned NASA and space enthusiasts towards the planet Mars, our Red Neighbor. It is modern scientific belief that Mars was once a thriving planet. (Alford) Signs of water, lava flow and possibly even signs of life have been found on mars. More exploration of the mars surface could provide us with Martian fossils. Tectonic activity is most often accredited with the destruction of fossils. On Earth so much tectonic plate action has occurred that most of the fossils in certain areas have been destroyed, however, there are many areas that still have a wealth of fossils and little tectonic activity. Mars, on the other hand, has never show evidence of tectonic activity, thus many speculate in its sedimentary rocks there will be a wealth of fossils leading us back to the dawn of the planet. (Meyer et. al)
How is it that a planet so close in make up to ours never sprouted life? (MARS AT OPPOSITION) Or did it? Mars rotates on its axis every 24 hrs and 37 minutes, Earth takes 24 hrs. Satellites like our own moon also circle Mars. However, Marsís magnetic field is only .002 times that of Earthís. It does not fit in with a dynamic planet that could sustain life, but recent discoveries have led to the belief that the core of Mars is probably liquid. This planet should have a much greater magnetic field, but what happened to destroy it? (Itty)
As usual many theories have been derived to hopefully explain the destruction of Mars. One popular belief is that a rouge planet or "Planet-V" exploded into the surface of Mars or in relative proximity. This led to the destruction of Marsís atmosphere, can explain the large craters, supports the evidence of a mass flooding of water on the planet and could also trigger large lava flows to cover the entire surface. This theory also states that Mars its self was once a satellite, like our own moon, yet the cataclysmic explosion started its rotation. Other theories are that large comets, meteorites and the like, have smashed into the planet surface causing the destruction of all life forms. (Alford) These craters can not be duplicated on Earth and the probing of Earthís meteorite sites shows the craters created here to be much smaller. But this does not disprove the theory of a rouge planet.
The now famous photo from Marsís surface commonly referred to as "The Face on Mars" is always involved in much controversy. While modern day scientists often want you to believe that these are tricks of lights and shadows, many believe it to be an extraterrestrial building area. The other theories fit into the building of the face on Mars. Perhaps there was a "Planet-V" and the inhabitants looked up and then soon landed on the face of their moon. We have done so on Earth so it is not as far fetched as it sounds. (Alford) Perhaps Mars was a planet to begin with and the inhabitants created a structure not unlike that of our own pyramids in the Giza plateau.
Also located in the Giza plateau is the Sphinx. Many have analyzed the face of the sphinx in correlation with the Face of Mars and found striking resemblanceís. Not only those resemblanceís but also that the pyramids on Mars, in correlation with the Giza pyramids, the sphinx and the matching of degrees and angles in building, all lead people to believe that there was once, and may still be, life on Mars. (Flynn)
Many other phenomenonís discovered in our time can not be explained. The Nazca lines in Peru are only one of them. Doubtlessly these lines were noticed by many that walked the sands of Peru, but never were they understood or fully seen. (The Nazca Lines) Not until the invention of the airplane and many flights over the Peruvian deserts, did people start to notice the striking patterns in the sand. Many shaped as animals, spiders and the like called geoglpyhs. Many others lines leading off to no where and odd geometrical patterns. They have been speculated about but no evidence can prove their age, creators or purpose. (Alford)
One theory put forth by Erich Von Diniken in 1969 is that they are ancient extraterrestrial landing strips. While many including the foremost expert on the Nazca lines, Maria Reiche, have tried to disprove this theory they can not. Stating that, "The Nazca sand is much to soft for repeated landing of heavy aircraft, not sophisticated enough to believe to have been built by aliens, and not wide enough for airplanes to land on." (Alford) All this has done is proven that man could not have produced these lines for flight. The idea that extraterrestrial could have still pushes many. Do we know what alien aircraft is like in weight or size? Why do we assume aliens to be pretentious and have to build elaborate structures? While this could or could not prove why the Nazca lines are in existence, no one can explain the geoglyphs found in massive abundance.
"To admit youíre wrong is one of the hardest of all tasks a growing intellect must undertake, but I must be done for continued growth."(Williams) This is something many believe scientists and politicians of today need to learn how to achieve. Telling the truth to those who seek answers and further exploration of these planets. But the questions are always asked "Whom will benifit from further space exploration?" and "Who will pay?".
NASA has been plagued with a run of bad luck. In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded seconds after take off killing all aboard. Many problems were known prior to the launch but over looked due to the small window of opportunity to send a probe up to Mars. The space windows to send items to Mars come about once ever twenty-four months. To cancel the Challenger mission due to small technical difficulties, or more theories from engineers, would have been looked at as a failure.
The loss of life from past explorations of space is one factor, but money is always the other factor. Many satellites and probes sent to Mars cost around $200 million dollars to produce, cheaper then previous models costing upwards of $700 million. But who should pay for these probes that risk being lost or being involved in accidents such as "controlled flight into terrain"? (Where human error causes the probe to either crash or become permanently buried into the terrain it was designed to investigate, thus loosing it forever) And is this exploration worth it? (Oberg)
To learn from the past will propel forward. This is what space exploration is leading us into. A planet that may have, or still does, contain an ancient civilization can lead to many benefits for us on Earth. We can help to learn how Mars became as it is today and stop the deterioration of our own planet. Many scientific experiments from space have already aided in the production of medical instruments, procedures, medications and research materials. These have been key factors in determining more about human genetic make up, the bodies limitations and also metamorphic qualities.
As commercial enterprises step into space exploration, more engineers, physicists and lay people can dream and be involved with space exploration to Mars and other planets. This may some day answer questions about markings on Earth, its terrain, or how to stop the destruction of or own planet. Fascination with space is not a new concept but one that will always grasp our attention.