Tuesday, September 18, 2007

BBC Space: Are We Alone?

A majority of Canadians say they believe life exists elsewhere in the universe, a new poll shows - but most aren't willing to support a mission to look for it on Mars or other planets. The poll, carried out by the Strategic Counsel for Discovery Channel, found that 62 per cent of Canadians believe we are not alone in the universe. But only 38 per cent say they would support a mission to hunt for life forms on the Red Planet, compared to 60 per cent who wouldn't. It is not just Mars: 68 per cent say they don't feel it is important to hunt for life on other planets, at least in terms of scientific priorities. Canadians appear to be divided on whether it is better to send robots or humans. Forty-eight per cent say robots are faster and cheaper, but 42 per cent say humans can perform numerous tasks and adapt to changing circumstances. The Canadian Space Agency is exploring the feasibility of a number of missions to Mars. They include a radar satellite that would study the geology of the planet, as well as a look for the best landing sites for future human exploration and for potential drilling sites. Last month, NASA's Phoenix Mars lander was launched. Canada provided a meteorological station that will track weather and climate once it lands in 2008. The instruments will measure pressure and temperature, as well as dust, clouds and fog in the lower atmosphere. A network of Canadian universities is planning to launch a mission carrying a robot - dubbed Northern Light - to Mars in 2009. The Strategic Counsel surveyed 1,000 Canadians, in June and August. The margin of error in a survey this size is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. (globeandmail.com: Most Canadians believe we're not alone)

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