Mars Landing Sunday — Creationist Nightmare?

We’ve previously written about the positions taken by some of the major creationist websites on the existence of extra-terrestrial life. For the granddaddy of all creationist outfits — the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), see ICR Flat-Out Predicts: “No Alien Life Exists”.

For the position of ol’ Hambo, founder of Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationist wisdom, see AIG Accepts Possibility of Alien Life. But he’s definitely against the idea of intelligent aliens. He declares that even if they exist (which he doubts) they can’t go to heaven. See Ken Ham v. Vatican Astronomer & Aliens.

And we recently discussed the Discoveroids’ Thoughts about Life on Mars. They’re hoping there’s no life on Mars, which would allow them — from that one data point — to confirm their belief that the emergence of life isn’t a natural process.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to land this Sunday, 05 August (06 August, very early Monday morning if you’re on the US east coast). The latest news is posted here at the NASA website, and you’ll be able to watch the landing live here.

We found two recent articles about the mission at PhysOrg. The first is Curiosity’s search for organics. It says, with our bold font:

Soon the rover Curiosity will land on Mars. By design it won’t involve life-detection, but it was assembled to look for the carbon-based building blocks of Martian life and to explore the possible habitats where life might once have existed.

That’s enough to terrify the creationists. The article also informs us:

The main instrument for the rover’s astrobiology research is the gold-plated Sample Analysis on Mars, which includes three complex lab tools and is the largest and heaviest (at 88 pounds) on Curiosity. Many of its capabilities are brand new or significant improvements on the Viking instruments [from two earlier landers].

But what most differentiates Curiosity from Viking is probably its landing site: The deep and ancient Gale Crater, which was made accessible to the rover because of vastly improved precision landing techniques. Orbiting satellite imaging has already determined that the crater was covered with water in the past, and that it contains minerals that can only be formed in water as well as clays that also require an H20 environment. What’s more, Curiosity can move around to promising targets and can drill and then bake samples as never before. In other words, the rover will be exploring an area far more likely to contain the building blocks of life than any of the six Mars landers before it.

That’s just a sample of what it says, of course. The other article is NASA confident ahead of nail-biter Mars landing. That one tells us:

If all continues to go well, the unmanned rover will touch down in Gale Crater, one of the lowest points on Mars, where scientists believe the waters of ancient rivers flowing downhill once pooled. The crater also contains a mountain that rises higher than any in the 48 continental US states, and should provide loads of information about the past through its sedimentary layers.

Then the landing is described:

Approaching Mars’ atmosphere at a speed of about 13,200 miles per hour, or 5,900 meters per second, the spacecraft must separate, a supersonic parachute must deploy, then a rocket-powered sky crane must activate to power the vehicle closer to the surface before lowering it with nylon tethers. “It looks a little bit crazy,” Adam Steltzner, chief engineer at JPL, said as he described the final moments before touchdown, which NASA has detailed in a video called “Seven Minutes of Terror.” [You can see that video here.] “I promise you, it is the least crazy of the methods you could use to land a rover the size of Curiosity on Mars,” Steltzner told reporters, adding that using airbags or trying a platform landing were ruled out. “We have become quite fond of it and we are fairly confident that Sunday night will be a good night for us.”

So there you are. Assuming it survives the landing, what will Curiosity find? We don’t know, of course. Like you, we’re eager to find out. But the creationists are quietly terrified. And that adds an element of humor to the whole enterprise.

Update: See Mars Landing Tonight!

See also: AIG Reacts to the Martian Landing.

See also: Discoveroids React to the Martian Landing.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Mars Landing Sunday — Creationist Nightmare?

  1. Curiosity does not land Saturday night if you live on the East Coast. 10:31 PDT Is early Monday morning on the east coast 1:31am.

  2. Charley Horse

    Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to land this Sunday, 05 October

    So, Mars is a month ahead of Earth?

    I know….picky picky

  3. retiredsciguy

    This Sunday is 05 August, which is two months ahead of October.

  4. Seriously? “But what most differentiates Curiosity from Viking is probably its landing site” How about that Curiosity has wheels? Or that it contains actual instruments other than a camera? I could go on…

  5. Charley Horse says: “So, Mars is a month ahead of Earth?”

    Not any more.

  6. docbill1351

    If the feed is like Spirit and Opportunity the EDL team will be calling out numbers and if you’ve memorized the landing sequence then you’ll appreciate the excitement as it unfolds, however it goes.

    To get you in the mood, here’s a descent animation of the Huygens Probe to Titan that uses sound to represent different instruments.

    Tally Ho Titan!

  7. I doubt they’ll lose any sleep over the findings. It is unlikely to find any incontrovertible evidence for life or past life. Even if it does such biological findings would not look like a smoking gun to a layman or in this case an ignoramus.

  8. Viking had other instruments besides a camera. Viking had three experiments to detect organic chemicals. The first two returned negative results. The third and most accurate returned a positive result. However, the NASA announcement simply dismissed this and announced there was no evidence of life on Mars. There was no reason to squash the results from the third experiment, apart from conservatism.

  9. @SC – you need to change “US east coast” to “US west coast”, unless you are postulating that the planet will be rotating in the opposite direction tomorrow.

    Or maybe a magnetic field reversal? Will the east coast then become the west coast? Will Maine become the deep south? Do you know something we don’t?

  10. SC said:

    Sunday, 05 August (Saturday night if you’re on the US east coast).

    “Me” is right. Late Sunday on the left coast is early Monday morning on the east coast. We in the Land of Politicians won’t see the landing until 1:30 in the AM Monday. The NASA web page even says so.
    Oh, and this will surely drive the creationists / IDers nuts: a list of some of the scientific papers written on information derived from previous and current rovers on Mars.

  11. Ed says:

    @SC – you need to change “US east coast” to “US west coast”, unless you are postulating that the planet will be rotating in the opposite direction tomorrow.

    All right, all right. Have it your way.

  12. @Me:

    How about that Curiosity has wheels?

    So do the previous rovers.

    Or that it contains actual instruments other than a camera?

    Again, the previous ones also had instruments other than cameras.
    I recommend a visit to the NASA site on the Mars missions. (I’m not going to post a link as I think that a third hyperlink will kick off SC’s spam filters.)

  13. Actually, here’s a better image showing all three of the different types of rovers, from Sojourner to Curiosity.

  14. @SC

    “Me” is right.

    How much fun that must have been to say “Me” is right. :-) Grrr..

  15. I’m sure the creation lobby has a ready-made alibi ready for any Mars scenario. They’ve invested considerably in their meal-ticket sucker list, and won’t forgo them without a fight. As far as explanations go, anything will do, really. The clueless lot they need to convince aren’t too demanding. I imagine there’s a spinner wheel mounted on the wall at ICR headquarters, divided into handout statements with escape clauses. As Troy pointed out, they don’t seem to lose too much sleep there. Otherwise complicit guilt alone would keep them awake indefinitely.

  16. What a mess. If we cannot agree on the time of day, we are going to have another Beagle II on our hands.

    Curiosity will land at a certain instant in time. This is not dependent on where you are, that just determines what you call it.

    I doubt if NASA still measures distance in nautical miles; if only because there is so much collaboration between nations now. I do not know how they measure time now. Seconds are universally understood, being one of the SI units. Hours and minutes are more doubtful as we cannot depend on 60 seconds to the minute. Time-zones are complex and depend on political whim, especially with daylight saving. GMT should have disappeared in 1925. What will be happening to US clocks on the night of 4th November is the stuff of nightmares.

    NASA gives the time and date on the linked page as:

    Fri, 03 Aug 2012 09:43:25 PM GMT+0100

    I think that it is trying to be clever and give me UK local time.

  17. techreseller

    The NASA PR guy was quoted as saying that the mission cost the equal of one movie ticket for each person in the US. And that everyone wants to see this movie. I can think of 3 organizations (gee who could they be?) that do not want to see this movie. In fact are likely to cover the ears and eyes and la la la la la la , I cannot hear you.