- Reuters: “Robot Probes Sinkhole as Proxy for Icy Moon”
Our latest installment in the Search for Terrestrial Intelligence takes us to El Zacaton, Mexico, where NASA is taking a “first step toward searching for life on Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.”
It’ll be a deep step, however: El Zacaton is home to one of the world’s deepest sinkholes (extending more than 3,280 ft / 1,000 m beneath the surrounding terrain). Scientists believe the sinkhole, which is filled with water, will adequately represent some of the challenges of exploring Europa’s theorized oceans (thought to exist beneath sheets of ice on the surface). Some scientists speculate these oceans may have life.
The team hopes to test the robot in Antarctica next year and eventually—“in about 20 years”—send a similar probe to Europa.
For now, the NASA team will lower an underwater robot, nicknamed “Clementine,” into the abyss; the robot will then produce maps, collect rock samples, and record the experience. The team hopes to test the robot in Antarctica next year and eventually—“in about 20 years”—send a similar probe to Europa.
“We’re so sure there’s water on Europa that the real question is whether there is also life, whether there’s something in the ocean that bugs can eat,” enthused NASA’s Chris McKay. Another team member, microbiology expert John Spear, explained:
“Plants, animals, fungus, microbes and bacteria are the known forms of life. But there may be more branches to the tree on Europa.”
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with exploring the universe around us—from the sinkhole of El Zacaton to the ice of Europa—this NASA project is yet another idea driven by an evolutionary promulgation that seems to dictate to many that where there’s liquid water, there can be life. And, of course, not only is such life on Europa hypothetical; so is the existence of liquid water, which is only a speculation at this point.
In other Search for Terrestrial Intelligence news, guardians of NASA’s Spirit rover found more evidence of ancient Martian water this week—and, unsurprisingly, added that “[t]he latest discovery adds compelling new evidence for ancient conditions that might have been favorable for life.”
If life were “out there” on other planets, waiting to be discovered, evolutionary scientists wouldn’t miss it out of a lack of enthusiasm!
One thing’s for sure: if life were “out there” on other planets, waiting to be discovered, evolutionary scientists wouldn’t miss it out of a lack of enthusiasm!
In related “fishy” news, a study published in Nature by U.S. researchers examined the hypothesized genetics of the much-ballyhooed water-to-land transition of limbed fish, one of the most common icons of evolution. The scientists cite Tiktaalik as one example of a transitional form, explaining, “The Tiktaalik and other recent fossil finds suggested to us that the structures that really make land animals unique—hands and feet and fingers and toes—just didn't appear out of nowhere.”
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