The news for this week has several different adjectives attached to it. There’s the exciting, the Martian, the punchy, and the scathing (but that's a review for Prometheus that mocks a few answers to the Fermi Paradox, so it's not exactly news). The whole week has a touch of Brady Bunch to it, actually – Martian, Martian, Martian.
In all seriousness, this has been an action-packed week for space in general.
being pretty active on this frontier and sending the first woman astronaut of
the country into space, not to mention going through with their fourth mission with humans. NASA’s
working things out with European space missions, and SpaceX is settling into
their new role.
But the alien news has been pretty unique, too, this week. The scientific community is responding to the proposed Martian colony, the Curiosity rover is being fine-tuned and discussed, and Saturn’s moons are getting a bit of attention.
An Obstacle to Starting a Martian Colony – The Landing: People are taking larger payloads on Mars seriously, even if it’s not all about human colonies and we're not yet taking larger payloads to Mars. This article describes what the heart-stopping landing is like, why the relatively ancient parachute technology we have isn’t going to cut it for much longer, and an idea on how to fix it. The idea? The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator Project, which won’t just make payloads larger and landings better, but will also make landings at higher latitudes possible.
Where Our Curiosity Should Begin: That advanced landing system isn’t in effect yet, and that could cause problems for Curiosity, the rover landing on mars this August. NASA is trying to find the balance between putting the rover closer to its final site for operations and making sure it’s not damaged by a too rocky terrain. Curiosity’s main purpose is to see if there are signs of Mars ever having had life, or ever having had conditions suitable for life. Provided its landing isn’t too far on the rocky side of things, August 5 is the big day.
Some Cookery Shenanigans: Here’s where the punchy adjective comes in. Scientists are concerned that the Teflon in the drill on Curiosity will contaminate the soil and potentially confuse the sample results. Christian Science Monitor opened this article with a joke about ancient alien cookware, which is cute. And allowable, since the NASA scientists don’t think this contamination will be that much of a problem. Not that there’s that much we can do about it now, seeing as how the rover left last November.
Let’s Focus Our Curiosity Elsewhere: A large portion of the focus in all the recent Mars focus is the question of past or possible life. Rovers have searched for organisms, and the idea of ‘left-’ and ‘right-handed’ life has been thrown around quite a bit recently. For Curiosity, the search of life is looking in a different sort of direction: geologically. Rather than search for life that may or may not exist and may or may not be trackable with rovers, August and onward will be filled with the search for locations that are potentially viable. And, at the moment, Gale Crater’s
, which has a geologic history of
Mars’ latest 3 billion years in theoretically clear layers, is that place. Mount Sharp
A Clue to Titan’s Lakes: Titan, Ganymede, and almost any other moon mentioned in relation to potential extraterrestrial life or viable conditions have traces of methane. Titan, however, just got a bit more interesting than the more usual theoretical discussions. It has tropical lakes and ponds from methane condensing in the atmosphere, but the mid-latitude bodies of… liquid might be due to underground reservoirs. This means there are unexamined pockets for potential life that might not even have to factor in the rather difficult atmosphere.
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.