Sarah Stewart Johnson, Mars, And The Search For Life As We Don’t Know It | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: DENY X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

Sarah Stewart Johnson, Mars, And The Search For Life As We Don’t Know It

The Red Planet has not always been kind to those who have given their lives to its study. Before the rise of rover-based observation, Mars had a particular genius for revealing itself only in tantalizing snips and glimpses seized upon by our planet’s most fertile minds to form the basis of compelling theories of life beyond Earth, and a greater genius still for tearing those theories apart with each new set of data provided by our evolving observational technology. From Giovanni Schiaparelli’s canals to Carl Sagan’s macroorganisms to David McKay’s analysis of meteorite ALH84001, the history of Martian biological studies is littered with exhilarating moments cruelly cut short, all leading to the question, “What sort of person, seeing all those careers broken against the rocks of Martian obstinacy, would choose to go into the field today?”

A dauntless person, certainly, a person who sees the failure of previous methods not as a sign to quit, but as a challenge to rethink old definitions and cast wider the net of human curiosity. Somebody who sees the history of Martian exploration not as a succession of easily deluded dreamers, but as one of almost painfully brilliant humans wringing every last drop of meaning from the technology available to them before passing the torch to a new generation in the hope that, some day, all of that concentrated genius-to-come might compel the universe to reveal truths about the nature of life unimaginable in their own time.