536 pages | 5 x 9
Until recent years the origin of life and its possible occurrence elsewhere in the universe have been matters for speculation only. The rapid growth of molecular biology since 1940 has, to be sure, made it possible to discuss life's origins in far more precise and explicit terms than was possible earlier; and the subject entered a new experimental phase in the 1950's with successful abiogenic synthesis of important biochemical substances in conditions simulating the presumptive environment of the primitive Earth. But the real transformation that the subject has undergone stems from the spectacular growth of space technology in the last decade. The possibility of life's origin and occurrence on planets other than ours is no longer limited to idle speculation: it has entered the realm of the testable, of science in the strict sense. Given the rockets now available, and especially those available by 1969, it has become fully realistic to consider plans for the biological exploration of Mars.
Biology and the Exploration of Mars: Report of a Study concludes that the exploration of Mars--motivated by biological questions--does indeed merit the highest scientific priority in the nation's space program over the next decades. This report further concludes that the favorable opportunities for exploration between 1969 and 1973 can and should be exploited as vigorously as possible. The report considers the potential scientific yields of exploration, the possibility of life occurring on Mars and our ability to detect it with available and foreseeable technology, and gains from further astronomical work from Earth, by Martian fly-by missions, Martian orbiters, and Martian landers. Biology and the Exploration of Mars: Report of a Study contains the findings of the study, a postscript discussing the significance of the observations obtained during the flight of Mariner IV past Mars, and a collection of the working papers that formed the basis of discussions.