Welcome back to the surface of the Red Planet Earthlings! This is a place like we have never seen before in any previous robotic mission. Expect to see some images that harken back to Ansel Adams shots of Yosemite. And expect some ground-breaking science which will take us closer to answering a fundamental question: are we alone?
Mars is my second favorite planet, and the folks at NASA/Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Lab in La Canada, CA have helped us feel as if we have been there. And, against all odds, they have done it again. We all owe them thanks for the outstanding vicarious ride these past 30 years or so – and the curious turn it will now take with the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory.
Sometimes I think we take for granted that we are now awash in amazing high revolution, panoramic, microscopic, three dimensional images shot on the surface – or in orbit.
What we have found is a place that looks an awful lot like home (if you are Walter White) and I think that is part of the appeal. Looking at the Eagle crater, a human being can imagine being there – in hiking boots.
It is truly a transformative experience, and when you consider all the proof we now have that this place was once warm and wet, you cannot help but look at those images and wonder about our place in the universe and how close we are to learning if we have some company.
How great is it to be alive at this time when we just might learn the answer to that question? We are lucky to have people like the wizards at JPL who know how to get an answer.
Of course, we have been curious about this since cavemen looked at the night sky and said ”UG” (or when they saw the spaceship land and the little green men build Stonehenge).