The meteorite is riven with tiny fractures caused whilst still on Mars which contain carbonate and iron sulphide particles. These may contain some of the original building blocks of life. Several more Martian meteorites have since been found and are being analysed. Their journey across space was truly an odyssey of epic proportions and there are likely to be many more meteorites waiting to be discovered which will contain more vital and revealing information.
There is a 17 square kilometre area near Patriot Hills that is considered very rich in meteorites and an expedition by the Planetary Studies Foundation is being mounted there in the next year or two. The fact that many meteorites have been found there, does lend some credence to those who try to argue that thousands of years ago a gigantic meteorite crashed into this territory we now call Antarctica, and caused this white wasteland to be created.
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NASA has a continuing programme of sending a series of spacecraft to Mars, in order to find out primarily if there has been, or even still is, water there. This would prima facie indicate that conditions could have supported life at some time in the past and therefore perhaps could again. One day in the future, even in as short a time as only 500 years or so, it may be necessary to think of colonising another planet and Mars is of prime consideration for that.
Fortunately it has now been accepted, although there were some considerable tussles before this occurred, that the continent of Antarctica must be only used for the benefit of all countries and for science in particular. In essence it has become one gigantic science laboratory. Those nations interested in Antarctica, and there are many, have developed a framework, known as the Antarctic Treaty, by which the Antarctic is managed and which provides an acceptable means of co-operation. The original twelve countries who were active in the region, especially during the historic International Geophysical Year of 1957, first entered into this treaty in 1961. Many other countries have since also signed up. The National Science Foundation was given responsibility for the US research efforts and in 1959 also established the US Antarctic Research Program. Mapping, biology, meteorology and ocean sciences were added to the other active disciplines, geology, geophysics and glaciology.
The much maligned US President Nixon who, despite his tremendous failings on other fronts, was a far-sighted man in foreign policy and overseas activities, was enthusiastic about safeguarding the interests of Antarctica. He stated three US essential principles relating to this vast and mostly unexplored continent and they are important enough to restate here.
1. To maintain the Antarctic Treaty and to ensure that this continent will continue to be used only for peaceful means and shall not become an area or object of international discord.
2. To foster co-operative scientific research for the solution of worldwide and regional problems, including environmental monitoring and prediction and assessment of resources.
3. To protect the Antarctic environment and develop appropriate measures to ensure the equitable and wise use of living and non-living resources.