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Vatican expert hopes Curiosity will expand human knowledge

The head of the Vatican Observatory hopes that Curiosity will expand human knowledge.

Fr José Gabriel Funes, SJ made the comments while welcoming news that the Mars science rover Curiosity has successfully landed on the Martian surface on Monday morning.

“I think everybody should be happy with the success of [the start of] this mission,” he said. “We now have to wait for results, to see if we can learn more about Mars and the possibility of organic elements on the surface of Mars.”

The Mars science rover Curiosity landed on Mars on Monday— shortly after 0530 GMT— to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life and immediately sent back images (above). Mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California received signals relayed by a Martian orbiter confirming that the rover had survived a make-or-break descent and landing attempt to touch down as planned inside a vast impact crater. It is now set to explore the planet for two years.

Asked by Vatican Radio whether believers have anything to fear—whether from the search for extraterrestrial life in particular or from scientific exploration generally, Fr Funes said ‘no, of course not—we are not afraid of science, we are not afraid of new results, new discoveries.’ He added that human beings, including Catholics, want to know if life forms exist anywhere else besides Earth.

So far, there is no evidence of a living organism elsewhere, ‘but still the search for life is worthwhile,’ and ‘we can learn many things, even if we cannot find signs of life,’ he said.


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