AAS 204th Meeting, June 2004
Session 66 Mars Down to Earth
Topical Session, Wednesday, June 2, 2004, 2:30-4:00pm, 4:15-6:00pm, 707/709

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[66.06] Mars as the Cornerstone for Other Habitable Worlds

B. M. Jakosky (Univ. of Colorado)

Understanding Mars is important in the context of understanding the issues of planetary habitability and life elsewhere. This ties together our understanding of the origin and evolution of the Earth, the origin of life on Earth and the requirements for habitability, and the potential for life on Mars and elsewhere in our solar system. Especially, it emphasizes the interconnected nature of the solar system as a system, in which one needs to understand a lot of issues in order to understand the architecture of our solar system and, if you will, the distribution of habitability both in our solar system and beyond. In order to understand habitability, we need to delineate the processes responsible for forming planets and for controlling their environments. That is, we need to understand how to make habitable planets and how to make planets habitable. And, this ties in with the 100+ other planetary systems elsewhere, which provide important statistics on planetary systems as compared to the detailed knowledge of our own system and the really detailed knowledge of our own planet. Mars is the cornerstone of this, in that it brings together all of the issues of planetary formation and evolution, habitability, and the nature and occurrence of life. Furthermore, it is the most accessible such environment in our solar system. Mars becomes, in essence, a test of our understanding of processes that has been developed for Earth, and serves to inform our view of the distribution or potential for life throughout the galaxy. In this context, I also will discuss how the Mars exploration program for the coming two decades fits into the new vision for NASA.

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