Conan the Bacterium

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Conan the Bacterium

A russian robot spacecraft is due to launch this october, taking with it earth's first interplanetary lifeforms.  They craft will travel to and orbit Phobos, land to collect soil from the surface, and come back to earth in a 34 month time period.

Forget Jesus, the stars died so that you could be here
- Lawrence Krauss

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 I'm mildly torn by this

 I'm mildly torn by this mission.  For the most part, I think it's a logical first step towards human interplanetary travel.  I'm sure that if successful, the returning microbes will give us all sorts of neat information that will help us determine if sending humans to Mars is a realistic goal.

The part that jerks at my logic circuits is that this isn't what the article talks about.  It's all about whether life evolved on Mars and then got shot to earth.  While I find the hypothesis entertaining -- it would make a good movie -- I wonder if this isn't our imaginations running away with us.

Let me put it another way.  How much does this experiment cost?  A few billion dollars?  I dunno.  I'm just guessing.  Let's say it costs five billion dollars, just for the hell of it.  To the best of my knowledge, Phobos is either an accretion moon or a captured moon.  It's not Mars, and its soil is not likely to give us any indication of whether life evolved on Mars.

So... billions of dollars on a single experiment to determine if certain microbes can survive interplanetary space, with the stated goal of trying to find evidence for a hypothesis that doesn't have much more than a raised eyebrow from any major scientists studying abiogenesis.

I wonder how much work those scientists could get done with billions of dollars of government grants.

My cognitive dissonance alarm is going off.  That's all I'm saying.

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