Studies Suggest that Life Forms Could Have Existed on Mars

January 9, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. convincing (adj.) 
 [kuhn-vin-sing] –  serving to convince; to make someone believe or agree
Example: People approached the speaker after his convincing speech at the conference.

2.  rover (n.)  [roh-ver] – something or someone that roves or moves around, over, or through an area
Example:  The rover policemen helped us recover some of our lost baggage after the storm.

3.  ore (n.)  [awr, ohr] – a rock containing valuable minerals or metals
Example: The company profits from mining silver ores  found deep in the mountains.

4.  glitch (n.)  [glich] –a minor problem or  temporary error that causes a machine or device to not work properly
Example: I managed to use my old computer despite its mechanical glitches.

5. conserve (v.) [kuhn-surv] – to use (something) carefully in order to prevent loss or waste
Example: There are a lot of simple ways to conserve water.

Read the text below.
NASA’s Mars rover “Opportunity” has found convincing evidence that suggests life forms could have existed on Mars billions of years ago.

At the 2011 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, lead researcher Steve Squyres reported that the rover discovered a material very similar to gypsum, a mineral whose chemical component includes water. The rock with the material, which scientists have named “Homestake”   would be the strongest proof of liquid water on Mars that has been found so far if confirmed to really contain gypsum.

Opportunity also found another rock, named “Tisdale”, which has a zinc concentration level comparable to commercial zinc ores on Earth. Natural zinc deposits are the results of hydrothermal activity, as when hot water flows through rocks and leaves behind minerals filled with zinc.

The research team still has to completely analyze these findings. But if the rocks are proven to have been formed because of the presence of water, they would greatly support the theory that Mars was not as cold and as dry as it is today.

Furthermore, as water and heat are considered key conditions for life, the discoveries support the idea that simple life forms could have existed on Mars during ancient times.

Opportunity was put on Mars in 2004 to collect data from the planet’s surface. Scientists expected it to last only three months, but until now the rover continues to work, and has since traveled more than 30km to the rim of a huge crater despite glitches in its instruments and mechanisms.

In the coming months, however, Opportunity's operations will be slowed down to conserve its power in preparation for the coming Martian winter. During this time, there is less sunlight for its solar panels to absorb and use as energy.

Given the rover's current working condition and recent successes, NASA may well continue to spend $12 million annually on the entire Opportunity project, with the hope for more discoveries in the coming years.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think that in the future, science can  make it possible for people to live outside the Earth?
·         Assuming it becomes possible, would you like to live on another planet? Why?

Discussion B

·         Should countries spend much time and money for space exploration? Why or why not?
·         What are other matters which countries should focus on aside from space exploration? Why?

January 9, 2012