Monday, January 20, 2014

Mars Attacks! Oh, Nevermind, It's Just a Rock

Staff Writer, DL Mullan
Mars Rovers / NASA

"A comparison of two raw Pancam photographs from sols 3528 and 3540 of Opportunity's mission (a sol is a Martian day). Notice the "jelly doughnut"-sized rock in the center of the photograph to the right. Minor adjustments for brightness and contrast."

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"It's about the size of a jelly doughnut," NASA Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University at a special NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Discovery News. "It was a total surprise, we were like 'wait a second, that wasn't there before, it can't be right. Oh my god! It wasn't there before!’ We were absolutely startled."
Well it looks as if NASA has an alien prankster on Mars, or the Rover, Opportunity, flipped a rock and it landed onto top of this other rock during maneuvers. Either way, NASA scientists are excited about the find:
“It obligingly turned upside down, so we’re seeing a side that hasn’t seen the Martian atmosphere in billions of years and there it is for us to investigate. It’s just a stroke of luck.”  
“You think of Mars as being a very static place and I don’t think there’s a smoking hole nearby so it’s not a bit of crater ejecta, I think it’s something that we did … we flung it.”
These little robots sent to Mars has given the people on the Earth the opportunity to see beyond our little blue planet. We are getting to experience life on another planet. 

A brief history of the rover program: 
Opportunity has outlived its 3-month primary missionby ten years, notching up nearly 23 miles on the odometer so far. Sister rover Spirit succumbed to the Martian elements in 2009 when it became stuck in a sand trap in Gusev Crater. Spirit’s mission was declared lost when it stopped transmitting in March 2010, likely drained of energy. Although Spirit had the rougher time on Mars and was the first to die, it was also a huge success, aiding our understanding of Mars' geological history and outliving its warranty by 5 years. But now it's just Opportunity and Mars' new arrival Curiosity that soldier on to reveal more than we ever dreamed about our neighboring Red Planet.
These rovers has given every child, and the child inside adults, dreams of other worlds. Dreams only more exploration can satiate. Dreams that will give way to more dreams and rovers.

Is a Mars colony next? Shouldn't we have already been there by now? Money wasted on wars and cronyism hasn't given Americans, or the rest of the world, what we hunger for: knowledge that lies in the undiscovered country of our universe. 

Let us be who we are. Let us strive. Let us explore.

Source: Space,