It also means human exploration of Mars will be easier and more effective because we can convert these minerals into drinkable water and other useful elements. So, why am I writing about space exploration on an atheist blog? Simple.
For centuries, religious people have believed Earth is the only planet in the universe with life because their deity created this blue planet (and universe) just for them. In an earlier blog entry, I broke down how many planets in the observable universe have habitable conditions for life and it's in the neighborhood of 50 sextillion (that's a 5 followed by 22 zeroes), so the idea that life hasn't arisen somewhere else over the past 13.7 billion years is absurd.
But now, if we can find any kind of life in our cosmic backyard, that means creating life wasn't as rare or difficult as once thought, and if life is on the next planet over, it would be a virtual certainty that life bubbles vibrantly throughout our universe. And, if that's the case, then no deity made this universe just for us, and certainly didn't create Earth just for us. We instantly go from being special to incredibly average in one fell swoop.
Another gap filled by science.
Of course, you can already hear the apologists claiming this as a victory. "God is so great that he created a habitable planet right next door for us!" Sorry, believers, if your god was truly omnipotent he would have made Earth so perfectly that we wouldn't need to escape to Mars someday when the sun turns into a red giant and swallows us whole.
Science ... winning!