This has been a busy week for me. In addition to my normal duties, I’ve also been tending to my neighbors’ cats and garden while they’re away on vacation. It’s very rewarding and very stressful work. The cats have taken a shine to me. Now when I approach, they don’t scurry and hide, but they run up all around my legs and meow sweet nothings toward me. The plants have proven to be more difficult. The azalea bush was pink, vibrant and fluffy before it was relegated to my care, but now is shriveled, drab and droopy. On the bright side, the vegetable garden seems to be thriving. The Japanese eggplants are coming in nicely and there are zucchini and squash already coming in. It’s simple, maybe, but it’s very fulfilling work.
While I’ve been busy concerning myself with terrestrial matters, others have been setting their sights toward heavenly bodies. Mars is back in the news again. The Phoenix Mars lander, a space craft deployed by NASA, may have discovered water ice. According to an article by Kenneth Chang published in the New York Times on June 20:
“In a photograph released Thursday evening of a trench that the Phoenix Mars lander has dug into the Martian soil, some white patches that were seen earlier in the week have shrunk, and eight small chunks have disappeared. Until now, scientists were not sure if the white material was ice or some kind of salt.
“When exposed to air, water ice can change into water vapor, a process known as sublimation. Salt, on the other hand, is not capable of such a vanishing act.”
Of course, ice on Mars is nothing new. Scientists have been popping boners over the possibility for years now. Later in the article, Dr. Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, the principal investigator of the Phoenix’s mission, threw the scientific method out the window and gushed, “It must be ice! The whole science team thinks this. I think we feel this is definite proof that these are little chunks of icy material!”
In case you were wondering, I added the exclamation points for effect. He just seemed so darn excited. I’m sure his statements were delivered with the proper gravitas.
Water ice, of course, means water. And, as I’m finding out as the caretaker of my neighbor’s garden, water means life—unless of course you live near the banks of the Mississippi, in which case water equates financial ruin and soggy doom.
So did anything ever live on Mars? There is evidence of vast icy material beneath the planet’s surface. There is also a chance that Mars’s environment may have been habitable in the past 10 million years or so. It’s possible, sure, but it’s probably nothing as interesting as the critters from Mars Attacks.
If it turns out Mars is, was or could be inhabitable, we should take it at as a blessing. Shit keeps getting worse here on ol’ Earth. A report issued by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (got to work on that name, guys) on Thursday, June 19 stated that catastrophes like the aforementioned Midwest flooding—and even the fires that have been raging around us in northern California may become more prevalent and more extreme in the years ahead. Apparently, what was contained in the 162-page report was so gnarly that the vice president and managing director for climate change of the World Wildlife Fund, Richard Moss, called it “really frightening!”
That exclamation point was mine, too. But you should probably grow those gardens while you can.