Forget the Olympics. The real event to watch happened early Monday morning, as NASA landed the newest Mars rover, Curiosity, in a Martian crater with the goal of finding evidence of microbial life on Mars ("Touchdown: NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars," Web, Monday).
Since the time that humans have realized Earth is a single planet among uncountable other planets in the universe, we have wondered: Are we alone in the universe? Is there life on other planets? Most scientists believe that microbial life is probably common, but whether this life is intelligent is still anyone's guess. The Curiosity mission isn't likely to find the skeletons of little green men, but if we find some kind of evidence of life on Mars, it will boost the likelihood that someday, when humans move out into space, there will be others to meet us.
Finding life on other planets and studying it to determine how it is both like life on Earth and how it is different is important. Does this life, if it exists, have DNA, and is its DNA like ours? Or is it something completely different? Answering these questions will help us understand who we are and how we got here.
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