New Internationalist

Life on Mars

Issue 415

The web is abuzz with speculation about an as yet undisclosed ‘discovery’ made by NASA’s Phoenix Lander which is currently exploring the arctic region of the planet Mars. Scientists behind the mission are reported to have personally briefed US President George Bush about some ‘provocative’ data collected by the Phoenix Lander. The NASA team and the White House are keeping tight-lipped about their findings, though they are expected to hold a press conference in a month’s time.

The Phoenix mission has already confirmed that there is water-ice on the planet and tests on the soil suggest that it is remarkably similar to Earth’s. The secrecy surrounding these new undisclosed findings and the fact that the scientists personally briefed the President suggest that something potentially quite, er, earth-shattering has been uncovered. But what can it be?

We asked Seriously’s own panel of scientific experts what they thought it might be. Here are a few of their more plausible theories: there’s intelligent life on Mars but no sign of it in the White House; the Phoenix Lander is really in Phoenix, Arizona, surveying someone’s back garden (though still making some profound discoveries of extra-terrestrial life); oil, big gloopy oceans of the stuff which would also mean that there was life, but hey, did we forget to mention the oil, Mr President?; Saddam’s WMDs; Martian WMDs which therefore means we need to invade post-haste. Osama Bin Laden reclining in a beach chair and sipping Mai Tais with Elvis; Mars is really made up of a milk chocolate exterior with a soft nougat centre; the Phoenix Lander was denied an entry visa and is being deported; a large black stone monolith; the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the Martian soil; Le Petit Prince; or the remnants of what looks to be a Large Hadron Collider eerily similar to one that’s just about to be turned on in Switzerland.

In all likelihood it’s something incredibly mundane like a dull reddish-brown rock or a new car advert. What we do know, though, is that the truth is out there…

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