Civilization on Mars

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Friday, July 21, 2017


Eleanor Hook

This week we had a couple of hearings: one on planetary flagship missions (specifically looking at Mars Rover 2020 and Europa Clipper) and one on energy innovation. While I wasn’t able to attend the second in person, it was a fascinating discussion of the interplay between the private sector and government-funded research in developing next generation energy storage solutions. However, I was delighted to attend the planetary flagship hearing!

Generally, hearings on space are pretty drama-free since this tends to be a fairly bipartisan topic—but that doesn’t mean they aren't entertaining. I learned a lot about upcoming missions, and I was especially interested to hear from Dr. Elkins-Tanton about the asteroid Psyche. The asteroid itself is one of the most massive in the asteroid belt and is composed almost entirely of iron, leading some scientists like Dr. Elkins-Tanton to believe that it is the stripped core of an early planet; by investigating this unique object further we’ll hopefully be able to get a better understanding of planetary formation. I didn’t really know much (or anything) about it before this hearing, but I’m excited to see what the planned Psyche mission is able to uncover!

Although these discussions about science were truly exciting and informative, I think I am also obligated to mention the only part that made it onto the news: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and his curiosity about aliens. Yes, he asked if there had ever been civilization on Mars since its climate was very different “thousands of years ago” (try billions). While I would have loved to see more coverage of the more relevant topics discussed during the hearing, I was highly entertained to see the clip being featured in late-night shows!

Eleanor Hook