In , experts found a meteorite in Antarctica known as ALH that contained fossilised bacteria-like formations.
However, in , experts concluded that this organic material had been formed by volcanic activity without the involvement of life. The first close-ups of the planet were taken by the Mariner 4 mission. These initial images showed that Mars has landforms that could have been formed when the climate was much wetter and therefore home to life.
In , the first Viking orbiter was launched and although inconclusive it paved the way for other landers. Many rovers, orbiters and landers have now revealed evidence of water beneath the crust and even occasional precipitation. Earlier this year, Nasa's Curiosity rover found potential building blocks of life in an ancient Martian lakebed.
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The organic molecules preserved in 3. Future missions to Mars plan on bringing samples back to Earth to test them more thoroughly.
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In , Curiosity also confirmed sharp seasonal increases of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Experts said the methane observations provide 'one of the most compelling' cases for present-day life. Curiosity's methane measurements occurred over four-and-a-half Earth years, covering parts of three Martian years.
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Seasonal peaks were detected in late summer in the northern hemisphere and late winter in the southern hemisphere. The magnitude of these seasonal peaks — by a factor of three — was far more than scientists expected. The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
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In his brief windows of down time, Steves did not go out searching for quaint restaurants or architectural treasures. He sat alone in his hotel rooms, clacking away on his laptop, working on new projects. His whole world, for the time being, had been reduced to a concrete blur of airports, hotels, lecture halls and media appearances.
In this town car, however, rolling through Midtown, Steves was brimming with delight. Man, oh, man! It was almost the opposite of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most recognizable structures in the world: a stretched stone cathedral. This was its unloved upriver cousin, a tangle of discolored metal, vibrating with cars, perpetually under construction. The car hit traffic and lurched to a stop. Steves paused to scan the street outside. Then he refocused.
This was correct. He reclines jauntily atop the cliffs of Dover and is vigorously scrubbed in a Turkish bath. The show has aired now for nearly 20 years, and in that time, among travelers, Steves has established himself as one of the legendary PBS superdorks — right there in the pantheon with Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross and Big Bird.
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Like them, Steves is a gentle soul who wants to help you feel at home in the world. Like them, he seems miraculously untouched by the need to look cool, which of course makes him sneakily cool. To the aspiring traveler, Steves is as inspirational as Julia Child once was to the aspiring home chef. You never knew exactly where his Rickniks as the hard-core fans call themselves would materialize en masse. Some Steves appearances were mobbed; others were sparse. His appeal is slightly cultish. For every Ricknik out in the world, a large contingent of average people have no idea who he is.
We arrived, however, to find the bookstore overflowing. A solid wave of applause met Steves at the door. Fans had been pouring in, the organizer told us, for two solid hours. People sat in the aisles and stood in the back. I noticed a group of hipster somethings standing near the back, and at first I assumed they had all come sarcastically. But as Steves began to speak, they grinned and laughed with absolute earnestness. Everyone here was, apparently, a superfan. At one point, Steves showed a slide of tourists swimming in a sunny French river underneath a Roman aqueduct, and the whole crowd gasped.
When he mentioned that his website featured a special video devoted to packing light for women, a woman in the crowd actually pumped her fist. At the end of his talk, Steves offered to sign books — but not in the traditional way.
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There were too many people for a signing table, he said, and anyway, single-file lines were always inefficient. This is one of his travel credos: avoid waiting in line. Instead of sitting down, Steves walked out into the center of the room and invited everyone to open their books and surround him. He pulled out a Sharpie. And then he started to spin. Steves held out his pen and signed book after book after book, fluidly, on the move, smiling as the crowd pressed in. A woman asked him where to celebrate Christmas in Europe.
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Steves, in midrotation, still signing furiously, told her that he had made a whole special about precisely that question and that it was available free on his website. As he spun, Steves thanked everyone and gave quick, off-the-cuff advice. In an astonishingly short time, he had signed every book.
The people were satisfied. The crowd thinned. Steves finally came to a stop. Rick Steves is absolutely American. He wears jeans every single day. He drinks frozen orange juice from a can. He likes his hash browns burned, his coffee extra hot. He has a great spontaneous honk of a laugh — it bursts out of him, when he is truly delighted, with the sharpness of a firecracker on the Fourth of July.
Although Steves spends nearly half his life traveling, he insists, passionately, that he would never live anywhere but the United States — and you know when he says it that this is absolutely true. In fact, Steves still lives in the small Seattle suburb where he grew up, and every morning he walks to work on the same block, downtown, where his parents owned a piano store 50 years ago.
On Sundays, Steves wears his jeans to church, where he plays the congas, with great arm-pumping spirit, in the inspirational soft-rock band that serenades the congregation before the service starts, and then he sits down and sings classic Lutheran hymns without even needing to refer to the hymnal. Although Steves has published many foreign-language phrase books, the only language he speaks fluently is English.
He built his business in America, raised his kids in America and gives frequent loving paeans to the glories of American life. And yet: Rick Steves desperately wants you to leave America.