The Martians Aren’t Coming (to Rescue Us)

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Earth & Mars

This is a little bit of a disappointment.

Earth & MarsThanks to the Mayans, we all know that the world will end next month, a few days before Christmas. Still, I guess I was holding out some kind of hope that we might be rescued by the Martians. Our neighbors to the outer side of the solar system, I can only imagine, would have been, well, neighborly. It isn’t like I don’t know my War of the Worldses, my Independence Days, but I tend to see the good in people Martians. There’s no reason the Golden Rule couldn’t apply extra-terrestrially, right?

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In an un-neighborly move, NASA is teasing us by dangling just out of reach some vague new discovery by the Curiosity Rover on Mars. Last week, the agency informed us that it would announce crazy-big, important, “for the history books” news during the first week of December. There are some obvious questions here: These “history books,” are they the kind of books with genuinely exciting history? Like, recoding the moment we made first contact? Or scientifically important history, not necessarily exciting to the general public? I’m not devaluing science here, I’m just saying: “ZOMG! Martians!” is one kind of announcement, and, for example, “We are pleased to confirm, chemically, that Mars is, indeed, red” is another kind of announcement.

Stuart Clark, writing in The Guardian, calmly and clearly, delivers the devastating pronouncement: “Whatever the Curiosity rover has found, it’s not evidence of life on Mars.” I don’t blame Clark; he’s just the messenger. I blame NASA (which hurts–I love NASA). Clark’s reason for being so sure? He explains, “Curiosity is not designed to look for life.” Merry Christmas, everyone!

If Curiosity can’t discover Martians because it was never meant to, Geekologie helpfully has pointed out something the rover is equipped to do: take crotch shots of itself. And while it’s not my place to judge, it just seems like NASA should have had the forethought to build the robot to take pictures of its own junk and to look for life on Mars. Isn’t 2012 all about multitasking?

Curiosity Rover
Curiosity’s self-taken crotch shot / NASA photo by way of Geekologie

In light of NASA’s dubious priorities, the European Space Agency and Russia have teamed up actually to look for life on Mars starting in 2016, but since we’ll all have been dead for four years by then-the Mayans were. not. playing-it seems a little like closing the Martian barn door after the Martian horse is gone.

The take away: NASA has a big announcement about Mars set for next week. And we’ll all be dead by Christmas.

Find my previous coverage of fake-Mars here.