Editorial: News from Mars — we might not be alone

SHARE Editorial: News from Mars — we might not be alone
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In this handout provided by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, dark, narrow streaks on the slopes of Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on surface of present-day Mars. (Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona via Getty Images)

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Maybe Mars will need those canals after all.

NASA scientists — turning upside down all our images of Mars as a cold, arid planet — have discovered that water flows across the Red Planet’s surface from time to time, which improves the chances that microbes are alive and kicking on our celestial neighbor. From data gathered by a circling spacecraft, it was announced Monday, scientists can say with certainty that seasonal trickles dampened the Martian surface as recently as last year.

The amount of water is not great. Those lines on Mars that people once though might be canals are still not canals. Any talk of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District taking on Mars as a new client is premature.

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But when humans do finally travel to Mars, water will be waiting for them, though laced with salts called chlorates and perchlorates and undrinkable without treatment. Martian water, apparently, has got nothing on the Lake Michigan stuff.

We’re inspired by the thought that life soon might be found elsewhere in the universe, even if it’s only a bunch of microbes living along a Martian rivulet squabbling over water rights. Scientists say the odds of this just rocketed.

Life on another planet. What a wonder. We would finally know: We are not alone.

And if Earth is not alone, by what logic could we insist Earth and Mars are alone?

The moment Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, mankind’s sense of place in the universe changed forever.

We sense another such moment coming on soon.

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