Saturday, September 25, 2004

Mars roundup

The Mars Rovers, now well past their original 90 day missions, have been extended for another six months. Spirit and Opportunity have been hunkered down for the Martian winter, conserving power and biding their time until the sun starts to rise higher in the sky again. Hopefully, they will emerge from their hibernation and continue what has been an extraordinarily successful mission.

Earlier this year, PBS aired a special Nova broadcast which examined the Mars Expedition Rover missions along with the cadre of nerds and engineers who put it together. It was easily the best program I've seen on television in a while. Highly recommended. I ended up buying a copy on dvd I liked it so much.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency this week released some intriguing results from their Mars Express orbiter. It seems that the same places they are finding water vapor in the martian atmosphere are the same places they are finding methane. What does that mean? We don't know for sure yet. Methane in the atmosphere is either caused by some sort of active geothermal process, or life. For life to exist, it needs (we think) water. Hmmm...