Life on Mars?

Right there, towards the bottom, on the left.  That is a shoe print on Mars.

And there is the shoe.

Not only is there apparently Life on Mars, but apparently they have a keen sense of humor as well. Apparently they’ve been dancing around the Rovers for a year, staying JUST out of sight of the cameras.  Not exactly the impression War of the Worlds or Mars Attacks! paints now is it?

First Man on Mars?

The Congressional bonehead award goes to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) who, on a visit to JPL, asked if Mars Pathfinder had taken an image of the flag planted there in 1969 by Neil Armstrong! Quipped Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) to the Washington Times: “We just don’t teach enough science.” Worse, Jackson Lee, who represents Houston, is a member of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee.

Do I have to explain to anyone what the problem with that statement is?


4/24/2017: Editor’s Update: Thanks in large part to Nancy Pelosi being removed as Majority Leader of the House many years ago, Sheila Jackson-Lee no longer is on the House Science Committee, Space Subcommittee.

Visiting Titan

Richard Branson’s newest adventure is commercializing space travel.  Right on the heels of that breakthrough, we now have:

Scientists piecing together data from Europe’s Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan described the hazy satellite today as an environment in which a frequent rain of liquid methane falls through a thick smog onto hills made of water ice.

Now, that sounds a LOT more exciting than Mars.  I mean, a trip to the Mojave Desert would be a lot more exciting.

Those really are rivers running into an “ocean”.  Sounding really cool so far.  But, there are obvious downsides:

  1. Little sunlight penetrates the dense hydrocarbon atmosphere. ( I really really like lots of sunshine ).
  2. Surface temperatures on Titan were measured at -290 degrees Fahrenheit. ( I really, really like lots of sunshine for that reason. )
  3. It had rained liquid methane recently before Huygens arrival. ( You can run a car on liquid methane. )

“We can now dream seriously of sending rovers to Titan,” said  Huygens project manager Jean-Pierre Lebreton of the European Space Agency (ESA). “All we need is the money.”

Did I mention Richard Branson?  Actually, I’ve got another idea.  Let’s put some loose ends together and this is what you get:

  1. The world is facing a renewable energy crisis before too long.

  2. NASA needs money to send rovers to Titan. ( See above )

  3. SpaceshipOne is wanting commercial business.

Put it all together, and you get this natural conclusion:

Sell the rights to methane on Titan to Branson/SpaceShipTwo, let them build freighters to bring it back and they can become filthy bazillionaires while the world weens itself of dependence on Earth’s limited resources.  I mean think about it in a realistic way, it’s raining gasoline on Titan.

Hey Volokh guys, do I have to patent that as a concept?

Editor’s Update, 5/16/2017:  More than a decade after writing this, nothing has landed on Titan.  For that matter, nothing substantial has landed anywhere in the solar system while we’ve talked ourselves to death about getting man to Mars even though at this point, we can’t even put a man in orbit.  We’re back to 1960 again realistically.

Likely Life on Mars?

OK, here is the article I’m referring to for starters:

Life on Mars Likely, Scientist Claims

Now microbial life is pretty hardy stuff. They have found it in volcanoes at the bottom of the ocean, and in ice in the coldest parts of Antarctica. To find it on Mars, which is colder than Antarctica for sure, means microbial life is a little tougher than originally thought. But, what can’t be proven on this mission is if that microbial life is there or not. Which begs the question, do we REALLY need to know?

Today, the Messenger probe was launched to visit Mercury. It’s basically a one-way shot that will take about 8 years to get there. When it does get there, it’s going to basically shoot some pictures of Mercury up really close, as they now suspect there is frost in some cavernous impact craters on Mercury. All of this is to see if there is microbial life on Mercury. This again begs my question, do we REALLY need to know?

Microbial life isn’t really life IMO, it’s slightly advanced over plants, and it moves. It doesn’t think, I don’t think it even reacts. It does what it does and dies. If there is microbial life on Mars, it only proves there is microbial life on Mars. It doesn’t prove a civilized species lived there and died off for mysterious reasons. It doesn’t prove Mars is in its infancy waiting to flower into a civilized planet. It only proves that microbial life can exist in environments much harsher than originally expected.

I would much rather see more money spent on SETI than probing Mercury and other planets that are generations away from serving any use to mankind. At least with SETI, we’ll know that microbial life can advance to a more sophisticated state and under what conditions it takes to advance. I’m not devaluing the rover missions, they have been fantastic. I’m just not sure Mars has anything more to offer than what it has. We need to know how much more advanced societies got past the barriers of the barbarism that allowed them to advance than we need to know whether or not there’s microbial life on Mars.

Editor’s update, 5/3/2017:  We’ve had rovers and satellites scouring Mars for well over a decade now and we still haven’t found even a clue of microbial life on Mars.  Two realizations from this:

  • We don’t need to send men to Mars.  There’s nothing there.
  • If “scientists” are this wrong about something this simple and easily documented, how accurate are they are on Earth’s future?