Above is a photograph that to some people people seems a bit familiar. In some ways it is similar to the shots from 40 years ago of Apollo craft returning to earth after completing a successful trip to the moon . (Yes, I know they had three chutes.)
However the same concept now has a new dimension. The above image is the Phoenix spacecraft descending to the surface of Mars , supported by its chute. The beginning of a very new mission. This incredible photograph was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Think about that for a moment. One spacecraft is taking a photo of another spacecraft as it lands near the north pole of an alien world. The ability for that to happen hundreds of millions of kilometers away from earth is very, very impressive. I’d rate it as one of the most impressive photos ever as it neatly summarizes the level of technology our civilization has achieved.
Over the next few weeks and months this craft will be examining the Martian surface to determine if it has supported life and could support life. Here’s a link to the relevant page on the Phoenix site. My bet is that it will be able to support and still does, only bacteria but hey, that’s pretty good. The big question will then be what came first, life on Earth or life on Mars? Or, unlikely as this may be, did they develop independently? If the latter occurs then the Fermi Paradox will have just become a lot more paradoxical and we’ll all need to have a sit down and a good think about what that means.