The Search for Life on Mars – The Positive and the Negative Side of that Search

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SHERLOC was built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the Perseverance mission; WATSON was built at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. For the most promising rocks, the Perseverance team will command the rover to take half-inch-wide core samples, store and seal them in metal tubes, and deposit them on the surface of Mars so that a future mission can return them to Earth for more detailed study.SHERLOC will be working with six other instruments aboard Perseverance to give us a clearer understanding of Mars. It’s even helping the effort to create spacesuits that will hold up in the Martian environment when humans set foot on the Red Planet. Here’s a closer look.

The Power of RamanSHERLOC’s full name is a mouthful: Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals. “Raman” refers to Raman spectroscopy, a scientific technique named after the Indian physicist C.V. Raman, who discovered the light-scattering effect in the 1920s.”While traveling by ship, he was trying to discover why the color of the sea was blue,” said Luther Beegle of JPL, SHERLOC’s principal investigator. “He realized if you shine a light beam on a surface, it can change the wavelength of scattered light depending on the materials in that surface.

“This effect is called Raman scattering. Scientists can identify different molecules based on the distinctive spectral “fingerprint” visible in their emitted light. An ultraviolet laser that is part of SHERLOC will allow the team to classify organics and minerals present in a rock and understand the environment in which the rock formed. Salty water, for example, can result in the formation of different minerals than fresh water. The team will also be looking for astrobiology clues in the form of organic molecules, which among other things, serve as potential biosignatures, demonstrating the presence life in Mars’ ancient past.

“Life is clumpy,” Beegle said. “If we see organics clumping together on one part of a rock, it might be a sign that microbes thrived there in the past.

“Nonbiological processes can also form organics, so detecting the compounds isn’t a sure sign that life formed on Mars. But organics are crucial to understanding whether the ancient environment could have supported life.

A Benefit of the Search for Life

One benefit of searching for life on Mars is that it encourages countries to look for other alternatives to abortion or murder or mandatory family limits as the world population grows. Namely, the growing Non-Jewish population might one day be partially moved to a Mars colony or to other planets.

I did not suggest part of the Jewish population should be settled in space, because life on the Moon or Mars would cause a number of halachic problems for Torah observance. See Mitzvot in Space (Halacha in Extreme Places Part 3) – Rabbi Anthony Manning

Truth and Knowledge as Torah Values

The search for proper facts and a true understanding of the Universe is a Jewish value and will help us understand the Torah better. However, this value is dependent on first having the proper love and devotion to Hashem, which will allow the seeker of scientific truth to remain fully committed to Torah. Those that do not have the proper love for Hashem are in great danger of getting ripped away from Torah observance, when the “facts” they seem to discover don’t fit their preconceptions of Judaism.

It is also vital that the seeker of scientific truth learn in a framework that is friendly and supportive of Torah observance and in a framework where scientific facts are not distorted to comply with social agendas.

One also has to take into account that are main focus of study should be Torah study. Science study is to be viewed like a spice or as dessert for the main meal. As it says in the last chapter of Pirkei Avot as translated by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld:
“Rabbi Elazar ben (son of) Chisma said, The laws of the bird-pair offerings and the beginning of menstrual periods — these are essential laws. Astronomy and the numeric values [of the Hebrew letters] are the spices to wisdom.” Rabbi Rosenfeld translated the Hebrew word פרפאות as spices. Rashi suggests it should be translated as Dessert or Appetizer. All three interpretations tell us science wisdom like astronomy is not our main focus of interest but something extra to the essential.

Some of the Negatives in the Search For Life

Atheists and Agnostics are bothered by the fact that according to the facts we know today it is very difficult to explain life as we see today as being the product of blind naturalistic forces. These secular groups are driven to look for life in the hope that it will help them come up with a secular answer for all that we see in nature or at least they can say, if life once existed on Mars, then we can feel more confident that a secular answer for nature will one day be discovered.

For an explanation of why the theory of darwinian Evolution is not sufficient to satisfy the secular conscience, see The Seti Proof for the Existence of G-d and Microbiologist Carl Woese Disproves A Key Doctrine of Darwin and see The Creation of Adam from Dust and the Theory of Evolution

This type of scientific expedition to Mars if it yields significant results will lead to a certain sense of haughtiness among the science commuity and their allies.

In general, the more people feel haughty the less people feel they have a need for Hashem. See Rashi on

Devarim – Deuteronomy – Chapter 7:7 for a deeper discussion of this problem.


One issue I purposely did not raise in this article, is it worth the expense of the economic level to explore the moon?

It appears that based on past precedent, that exploring space, in the long term will pay for itself.

This post was by Shlomo Moshe Scheinman