I actually showed this on the air today. It is very cool… well, I think it’s cool. It is a photo of the Martian sky.
The picture comes from the Mars Rover Opportunity. As you probably remember, there are two rovers exploring the surface of Mars. There was a lot more publicity earlier on, like with a new toy.
The rovers had a short predicted life. In fact, by now they should have stopped working. They haven’t.
With all the planned projects complete, and the rovers living on borrowed time, NASA drove them to places they wouldn’t have risked earlier. It was possible they’d go down a slope and not be able to get up the other side or otherwise get bogged down. The pressure was off. Why not?
I check back from time-to-time, looking at the photos both rovers sent back. This one really excited me.
In this picture of the Martian sky there are what look like cirrus clouds. In fact that’s what the scientists involved in the project think they are: cirrus clouds made of tiny ice crystals… water ice crystals. The only way they’d get up there was if water evaporated from the Martian surface.
This is yet another hint that water has existed on the surface of Mars. Does it mean Mars once supported life? Probably not. It’s still very neat and worth pondering some more.
There’s one more thing to think about. This ‘discovery’ is being done robotically – safely without risk to people. Space travel is still very dangerous. Robots are expendable. People are not.