Mars Takes Revenge

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WASHINGTON: And so Mars continues to confound. For every theory that says our sister planet is and always was a barren, lifeless rock, there's one that suggests it once teemed with life — and sure enough, we're more likely to listen to the latter. That was evident when a report in the journal Science pooh-poohing NASA’s claims over the supposedly fossilized Martian meteor was elbowed aside in the media by Friday's edition of Nature. The latter, gathering evidence from the Pathfinder mission, said Mars was once warm, moist — and more likely to have harbored some form of extra-terrestrial.

Not only did Pathfinder land on a Martian plain that may have been sculpted by water, but the plucky little Sojourner rover kept bumping into rocks that are extremely similar to those found under lake beds back on Earth. "Mars was certainly once a very wet place," says TIME Science Writer Jeffrey Kluger, "before the loss of its atmosphere. And yes, life did have time to develop."

Unfortunately for the faithful, the little-green-man hunt has to be put on hold. While debate rages on Earth, it's going to be at least 2001 before we pay another visit to our planetary neighbor.