Saturday, 25 April 2009

Safari on Mars


Amazing stuff I've been following for the last five years, the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. I am one of the millions of awe-struck earthbound humans who marvel at the enormity of the achievement of these rovers and their exploration of Mars so far. Of the hundreds of engineers and scientists who cheered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, on Jan. 3, 2004, none predicted the team would still be operating both rovers in 2009. It is to these scientists that one must give all the credit.
The sheer volume of science that the rovers have enabled is astonishing. To sit in a control room in California here on Earth and remotely drive a vehicle millions of miles away, on another planet, climbing hills, travelling over several kilometres, is the best job anyone could do. The rovers have covered greater distances than they were designed to do and have lived far longer than they were expected to. Its a bit sad that they are for eternity exiled to another planet and will never return home.
This is worth checking out too.

6 comments:

CodLiverOil said...

Space interests me too, but haven't had much time to properly check it out.

Those photos are really quite amazing!

Though I'm not keen on the idea of mankind planting flags and thinking of new domains as an opportunity for exploitation. But I guess that is somewhat idealistic on my part.

Hopefully there will be rules and regulations to prevent mankind from making as much of a mess of space as has been made of planet Earth. I do hope that people show the cosmos more respect than what the Earth has been shown (especially), since the last three centuries.

Although I fear the rape of despoiling of space may have already begun, as there is so much debris floating round our solar system, due to the careless nature of the space crews and ground control bodies here on earth.

Anengiyefa said...

Hi CodLiverOil, my thinking on this is that exploration is a part of humankind. Were this not the case, we humans would be restricted to a narrow strip of land around the Equator, seeing as survival in most places outside the tropics has been possible for us only because we have developed technologies to cope with the extreme climatic conditions in those parts of the world that are not naturally conducive to human existence, such as the cold climates of countries in Europe and North America.

Humans have thrived in these places because of technology, and my view of space is as of another place that we should view as potentially becoming available for human settlement sometime in the distant future. Planting flags on bodies in space like the Moon is just the beginning of mankind's eventual expansion beyond the limits of our planet. I think of today's astronauts and the space programmes generally, as comparable to the activities of the early Western explorers such as Vasco Da Gama, Columbus, Amundsen and Cook, whose stories we have on record. But before the time of these explorers, there surely must have been equally intrepid, courageous and adventurous humans who braved the long journeys necessary to colonise far flung places such as the Polynesian islands in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean and such other remote places as the Northern Territories of Canada.

What damage we have done to the Earth can only serve as a tutorial on how not to treat any other planet or moon that we may some day land on and hope to colonise.

Anengiyefa said...

And CodLiverOil, on space debris arising from man's activity in Earth orbit, my understandding of this is that although these items are currently stuck in orbit around the Earth, they are not expected to orbit pepertually. Because sooner or later they are expected eventually to succumb to Earth's gravitational pull and fall back into Earth's atmosphere, burning up in the process of re-entry, as did the Russian Mia spacecraft.

Amooti, Uganda said...

Anengiyefa, have you ever imagined that there could be more advanced life on other planets far away that could make humans look like mice? I find it hard to imagine meaningful life can be concentrated on just a very microscopic part of an unimaginablly limitless expanse!

Anengiyefa said...

Putting into perspective how insignificant our entire Solar System is in the Milky Way Galaxy, and then considering how ordinary the entire Milky Way Galaxy itself is in the Universe which contains at least, hundreds of millions of galaxies, and considering that even within our own insignificant galaxy, the nearest star to our own Sun is Proxima Centauri, which is 4.3 light years away, and considering that a light year is 5.8 million million miles (9.46 million million km), and considering that a light year is the distance which light will cover in a year travelling at a speed of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 km), then considering that after covering this mind boggling distance, you would have only seen two out of the millions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy, it would be quite chauvinistic, indeed, presumptuous for anyone to even consider that our Earth in all its insignficance is the only place in the entire Universe where life has developed.

Its almost like looking at an Amoeba through a micoscope and then declaring that this single celled organism is the only living thing on Earth. The potential for the existence of life elsewhere than on Earth is huge, because even here on Earth, life forms known as extremophiles have been found to thrive in environments previously thought impossible to support life.

Indeed on Mars, a certain type of silica was revealed by the wheels of Spirit, one of the rovers, and it was recognised that this silica could only have formed in a wet environment. Look here

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/mer-20070521.html

Wet environments usually mean life as we know it, and this is why even Europa, which is one of the moons of Jupiter is thought might harbour life, because it is believed that beneath its frozen surface is large volumes of liquid water.

Amooti, Uganda said...

hmmm...that was quite edifying, It will make me "Mr. Proffessor" this Friday when I hang out!

Am going to check out that website, thanx.