Shortly after our work with lunar sample, results were presented at the 41st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. LPSC began as a small affair in JSC's Gilruth center, later graduating into the South Shore Harbour Resort. Since last year LPSC has been held in the Woodlands Conference Center, a lovely place served by waterways and little boats. The field of planetary science continues to grow.
Monday March 1 was NASA night, with a briefing by Dr. Laurie Leshin from headquarters. Here she is celebrating our Cassini mission being extended another 7 years. Tuesday morning was the Women's networking breakfast, which also gets bigger each year. This year there was barely time to speak with the woman next door.
While water on the Moon is still a hot topic. water on Mars was also on many minds. There is ample evidence of ancient stream beds and oceans on the Red planet. Thanks to spacecraft, today's planetary scientist can closely study individual features on Mars. There is plenty of work for new scientists.
Thursday afternoon's session turned into a debate about life on Mars. In 1996 scientists found signs of life on Martian meteorite ALH84001. One key bit of evidence was magnetites, minerals formed by living things in reponse to Earth;s magnetic field. Since then detractors have tried vainly to find alternate explanations. One naysayer stood up Thursday, claimed that magnetites were produced by heating. He showed computer simulations of heating that seemd to support his thesis.
Kathie Thomas-Keprta of the Mars Meteorite Team then gave her talk and completely demolished the opposition. She found places in his computer code where he entered zero instead of a number. Kathie had even contacted the author of the computer program, who concurred that the detractor had used his software improperly. Science based on computer models is hardly science at all.
Overwhelming evidence shows that ancient Mars had conditions for liquid water and life. Old models claimed that the Sun was faint and Mars was frozen solid. Ancient water on Mars is more evidence of a hot young Sun and a changing speed of light. There will be detractors to the end, but rewriting laws of physics will keep physicists employed too.