November 21, 1989: Associated Press reported NASA administrator Richard Truly had handed the National Space Council the script outlining then President Bush's visions of American outposts on the moon and the Earth-like red planet of Mars. The space station, Freedom, was expected to be built by 1999 and served as "a transportation node where both Lunar and Mars vehicles will be assembled, tested, launched and refurbished to fly again."
The 5 recommendations for meeting the then President Bush's goals were:
Recommendation A: "To establish a human presence on the moon in 2001 with a view of permanently occupying the moon in 2002. Leveling off development of the outpost in 2012 in order to finance the start of a Mars expedition with 4 humans arriving on Mars in 2016.
Recommendation B: Should postpone "some of the science activities on both moon and Mars in order to advance the Martian arrival in 2011."
Recommendation C & D: Should change the timelines by delaying milestones up to 2 and 3 years.
Recommendation E: "Activities on the moon would be reduced to one mission a year. Humans would return to the moon, one flight a year beginning in 2004 for tours of duty ranging from 30 days to 6 months. In this scenario, the first crew of 4 would arrive on Mars in 2016 and returning for a 600-day stay in 2018." The Office of Management and Budget estimated the cost of going to Mars in $400 billion range (1989 currency).
Mars weighed less than Earth and smaller in size than Earth. It was said there was less gravity on Mars than Earth hence a person could "take giant strides and leap over the furniture with the greatest of ease." The 4th planet from the sun, Mars was said to be only 40 million miles away from Earth. In astrology, the planet Mars ruled the signs Aries and Scorpio (traits included boldness, firmness, strength and energy). Geomorphologist Stanley Schumm told 'The Denver Post' in 1987, "If we want to establish colonies there (in Mars), we must have water. If there’s ice under the surface, it makes manned missions more likely."
Back in 1976, Dr Carl Sagan spoke to Christine Russell of the 'Washington Star'. He explained, "Evolution is a stochastic process, that is, random events play an absolutely critical role in the evolution of life. For example, if a cosmic ray produces a mutation in a gene at one time and not another, it will make a small change in the next generation, but a billion years later the changes may be profound. And because that’s the case, and also the whole question of environmental changes profoundly influencing the future evolution of life, put that all together and it's clear that no one is in a position to predict what life elsewhere is like."
Dr Carl Sagan also pointed out, "All life on our planet uses in a very central way, liquid water. And, as you know, human beings are made of 80%, or some number like that, of liquid water. We drink it, we bathe in it, we love it, we think it’s pretty essential for life. And, if you look more deeply into biochemistry, it does indeed seem to be an extremely important aspect of the way life works. It's a cosmically abundant universal solvent, and in trying to imagine life elsewhere, particularly in a place like Mars, you are hard pressed to think of an alternative.
"So Martian organisms, if they exist, probably have to have a source of water. But the Martian environment is such that there is no liquid water just sitting out of doors, because the total pressure is so low that the water immediately evaporates and blows away. And if you have to ask yourself, 'If I were a Martian and I needed water, how would I go about getting it?' Well, the major places where we know water exists on Mars are as ice and chemically bound in rocks. So that’s the reason we suggested that if there are Martian organisms they can tap ice or tap the chemically bound water."
Dr Sagan stressed, "We have experience with only one planet, our own, and that’s just not enough from which to draw statistical inference. On the other hand, there is a large body of information connected with the origin of life, which suggests that at least the earliest steps in the origin of life are amazingly easy and that, of course, increases one’s confidence that life is reasonably common in the cosmos, even if you can’t predict that that would mean another planet. If we had one other case of life elsewhere, I think it will make the case reasonably secure that life is a cosmic commonplace. If we look at 2 planets, Earth and Mars, and find life on both of them independently, there are many people who would be willing to make the great leap."
July 20, 1976: American spacecraft Viking 1 landed on Mars beaming pictures back to Earth. Initially the mission was expected to last 90 days. However technology had enabled Viking 1 to continue its transmission back to Earth until November 11, 1982.
September 3, 1976: Viking 2 landed on Mars. Its last transmission back to Earth was April 11, 1980.
Dr Carl Sagan: "Viking will be remembered, if it works, for the rest of human history – the first time we human beings have looked close-up at Mars and searched for life on another planet. I think it is as difficult an adventure as the sailing of the 3 ships of Christopher Columbus almost 500 years ago (in 1492). But, in addition, I think there are very practical reasons why missions like Viking should be encouraged. They provide a sense of scientific perspective on Earth-bound sciences like meteorology, geology and biology. I think it very likely that the advances in fundamental science that come out of missions like Viking will improve many times over the impractical terrestrial methods. But, finally, there’s the other sort of perspective and that’s the perspective of looking at other planets for a better appreciation of our own.
"A mission like Viking approaches the deepest question that human beings have asked as long as they have been human beings – questions like the origin of life and the existence of life elsewhere, the nature of the planet we live on and the cosmos that we inhabit. I think that the unique qualities of human beings that distinguish us from all the other beasts and vegetables of the Earth – our curiosity, our analytic abilities, our abilities to both ask and answer questions – are certainly the hallmark of our success as a species. The exploration of other planets seems to be one of the finest human traditions – the thing that we do best."
In 1986, former Viking scientist Norman Horowitz told Gilbert Levin of Biospherics Inc., "Viking not only found no life on Mars, but it showed why there is no life. Viking found that Mars is even drier than was previously thought. The dryness alone would suffice to guarantee a lifeless Mars. It now seems certain Earth is the only inhabited planet in the solar system. We've come to the end of the dream. We are alone."