It's an incredible find that many scientists observing data sent back through the THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System) somehow missed. And yet the discoverers of the cave on Mars that may serve as some of the most astounding evidence of lava tubes on its surface. The THEMIS imaging system is a NASA craft that was sent up in April of 2001 and has been on an ongoing mission to document the surface of the red planet. The real discoverers of this incredible Martian cave? A group of students from Evergreen Middle School.
The Evergreen Middle School class was comprised of seventh grade students who identified a mysterious sinkhole into what appears to be a cavern below, in keeping with the contours of a structure that could be identified as being a potential dormant lava tube. For years the concept of Mars as a geologically active entity have been contested by those who suggest that a lack of extreme geological activity as is seen on Earth is evidence of a lack of a geologically active entity. But the presence of long veins of lava tubes running across the surface would be evidence of either currently or previously active geological activity. Since this activity appears to be one of the deciding factors in one proposed model for the creation and sustaining of basic life, the discovery of this cave may actually be more important in taking steps toward discovering the presence of life on Mars than it seems when one takes all the elements into consideration.
Since the presence of life as we understand it hinges on the presence of several factors that we have discovered to be the components of life, the presence of water, heat, and the basic elements required as components to living matter mean it is possible for not all of Mars to be merely a dead planet. Extremophiles, as they are called by biologists, are tiny creatures that have found not only that it is possible but indeed necessary to maintain their presence in an environment that other organisms would consider hostile and deadly. For example, the heat of Grand Prismatic Spring would be deadly to a human who attempted to enter it, and yet a form of organism known as a thermophile (a type of extremophile) finds this environment perfect for its own sustenance and reproduction. As a result, these extremophiles are able to survive on the springs and fly in the face of previously held conceptions that life can only exist where it has been observed for thousands of years. Alternately there are also even more extreme types of thermophiles that can exist in environments far beyond this. Is it possible therefore that a similar form of life could have evolved in the recesses of Mars' thermal vents and even produced offspring that could survive in the more extreme cold environments surrounding it? And assuming that the environment of Mars has not remained static for its entire history, which much evidence supports these days, is it not possible that a form of life over time migrated to more extreme environments in order to survive? As the evidence for life on what was once thought a dead planet continues to mount, the discovery of the Martian cave gives a perfect location for the search for life to continue.
Those who question the validity of private research into the field of astronomy and the study of scientific data sent back from conventional astronomical exploration programs need only look at the discoveries made recently to know that it is a worthwhile endeavor. The fact that a million eyes scanning the data may provide interesting points of data missed by others is self evident from discoveries such as this.
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