So, the news buzzing around the interwebs tonight has been the rumour that the Mars Science Lab analysts are gearing up to make, well, the kind of announcement that we all hope for every time a piece of kit like Curiosity touches down there. Given that the purpose of the MSL is to search for signs of life, it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to guess that could be what they’ve found. Assuming that’s the case, whether the “signs” are of ancient life long past or something current, something now, they’re going to be on the microbial scale. So there’ll be magnified pictures of cells and talking heads on News24 for a day and a half… and that’ll be it, won’t it?
Once upon a time the prospect of discovering life–LIFE!!!–on Mars–MARS!!!!–would have been world stopping news. Now? We’re comfortable with the mundane reality of the place and, more than that, we’re also comfortable with the idea of alien life. We’ve passed through all the wild imaginings we could come up with in science fiction and out the other side.
It’ll come as no surprise that there was/is life on Mars. And it will be no great shock either if we discover similar elsewhere in the solar system, on Europa, say.What it will be is confirmation of that which we pretty much already knew: that life isn’t unique to Earth. Which by extension suggests that life potentially exists all over the universe. Add to that all the goldilocks exoplanets we’re discovering…?
Now that’d be the kind of news that would stop the presses.