Sunday, April 03, 2005

NASA's Little Rovers That Could

I was a guest recently at a science fiction convention in San Diego, CondorCon. I was a panelist along with my able associates from the Mars Society of San Diego, Gerry Williams and Jeff Berkwits, on a panel about the past year on Mars for NASA's Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

We had a very large crowd in the room for such a convention, over 40 people. Interest, even after a year, is very high about the rovers.

Gerry had put together another of his excellent multimedia slide shows for the event. The rovers have produced a tremendous library of photographs, some of which are quite striking in their beauty. They have even photographed clouds on the red planet.

The information they have sent back has advanced our knowledge of Mars significantly. They have confirmed that Mars once had flowing water on its surface suggesting that the conditions for life once existed on that cold and dry planet.

This information, combined with the information about large accumulations of water ice under the surface provided by Mars Global Surveyor, and the information about methane concentrations in the atmosphere of Mars provided by telescopes on Earth and Europe's Mars Express, is highly suggestive of the continued existence of some life on Mars to this day. Or volcanism. Even that would be an exciting discovery since Mars is believed to be a geologically dead planet. But that's not quite as exciting to think about as the prospect of life on Mars, even underground microbes.

The Mars Society of San Diego will be talking more about these topics later in April here in San Diego when we present an updated and expanded version of Gerry's multimedia show about the Mars Rovers at the Reuben Fleet Science Center in San Diego. The talk is scheduled for April 16, 2005, from 1 to 2 pm.

We will also have the Mars Society of San Diego's model rover for viewing and driving, in addition to photos and videos of the Mars Society's simulated Mars base in Utah.

If you're in town, come see us.

-tdr

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