Compared to, say, “the man from Mars” in the media who turns out to be just some weird green dude who could have been born in Grand Forks or something. In “How the hunt for Mars life evolved” (MSNBC.com, March 6, 2012), Alan Boyle reports,
“Virtually every mission to the surface of Mars provides no evidence for anything,” Caltech geologist John Grotzinger, project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, told me. “We don’t expect to see any evidence for anything that might represent macroscopic life. At this point, we understand why that is. With reference to our own planet, if you go to extreme environments on Earth, places like Antarctica … the only things that you would really ever see in these extreme places are microorganisms or other simple organisms, like lichens. We’re not asking something special of Mars, we’re just conditioning our expectations based on analogs to extreme environments here on Earth.
“You put deserts and extreme cold together, and you’re not kidding anybody,” he said. “You know you’re looking for something that’s probably going to be very small and highly specialized, with adaptation to an extreme environment.”
This sounds quite promising, actually. If we narrow our expectations to specifics, we can learn something, whether or not we find what we are looking for.