Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mars and Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter is scheduled for launch in August, with arrival at Jupiter in 2016. The mission is focused on the science of the jovian atmosphere and its magnetic fields, so it likely won't produce a lot of discoveries we proles will find exciting. Thanks to improvements in solar technology and more efficient instruments, it will be powered by solar panels instead of nuclear fuel like our other missions to the outer planets.

Then comes another rover mission to Mars, dubbed Curiosity, which will have more sophisticated geological equipment that previous rovers. I find this a little disappointing; why go back to Mars, about which we know so much, instead of exploring the moons of Saturn and Jupiter? Why not Europa, with may have a liquid ocean under its icy crust? The National Research Council just issued a major report on priorities in space science as they see them, and they also opted to support more Mars missions over the Europa project or sending an orbiter to Uranus:
The Mars Astrobiology Explorer Cacher (MAX-C), a mission to Mars that could help determine whether the planet ever supported life and could also help answer questions about its geologic and climatic history, should be NASA's highest priority large mission, the report says. This mission will be the first step in a multipart effort to eventually return samples from the planet.
Honestly, people, we already know that there is no life on Mars, and to me that means there probably never was. Can't we put this to rest? I don't understand this Mars obsession. There are so many places in the solar system that we have still never explored.

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