After Thursday’s complications, the first Orion test flight was finally launched on Friday, December. Orion successfully orbited twice around the earth before landing four hours later in the Pacific ocean as scheduled.
The success of the passenger-less test flight exhibits how far NASA has come in establishing technology that can withstand severe amounts of radiation, and the capability to go ten times higher than the International Space Station (ISS). However Orion raises new questions about whether there is other life to be found in our galaxy.
NASA boasts that Orion’s capabilities proven in the test flight will eventually take us to asteroids, Mars and beyond. That ‘beyond’ opens a new window of possibilities and an abundance of new things to discover.
Now that the capabilities of the shuttle have been confirmed, scientists and astronomers can focus on how this technology will create a more accurate explanation of the universe, and answer the big question: is there life on Mars?
This year, NASA also launched a new Mars Rover program called Mars 2020 whose main purpose is to look for life on Mars. The rover is equipped with instruments to discover and capture any form of life on Mars.
The setback of this mission, however, is to find a correct landing site– somewhere where life is, or could have been, supported. Some have considered Holden Crater; suspecting it was a former lake. The water is an important ingredient in this search as it is a necessity to supporting life. However, the life we might discover won’t be a four foot tall alien with big eyes.
Scientifically, we have to consider what exactly defines life. The basic definition is a organism that is capable of undergoing evolution and reproduction. However, premature organisms would not be considered living.
The Viking experiments define life as, “able to consume organics and release gases; it would have a metabolism.” This is a more accurate definition for astronomers, because it allows them to gain a better understanding of the planets and their capability of supporting life.
These observations make it clear that the possibility of our race encountering any foreign life similar to our capabilities is slim. It is highly unlikely that we will find some extraterrestrial life force with advanced intelligence and the ability to be seen in more than three dimensions. Instead, we’re more likely to come across single-cell organisms and bacteria too small for the eye to see.
Concepts from E.T. and Alien will not suddenly be brought to life with Orion and Mars 2020. We are simply gaining a better understanding of the world we live in, and what is required to sustain us. The possibility of us finally being able to travel to another planet, will allow a more in depth analysis of Mars’ atmosphere and geography, but I wouldn’t count on Marvin the Martian popping out from behind a space rock.