I was completely unaware of this until about 15 minutes ago when I checked my Twitter newsfeed. Today marks the day that we finally set out to answer one of the peskier questions of science and history: how did Mars become a giant red, dead ball of dust?
The solution to solving this mystery has taken the complete form of NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) explorer, a project ten years in the making that will hopefully shed further light on the martian phenomenon. MAVEN will investigate the planet’s previously unexplored upper atmosphere to figure out if the sun might have had a hand in extinguishing life on the now-red, orbital graveyard that’s been on every astronomer’s must-visit list. Unfortunately, we won’t be getting any answers on that soon since MAVEN was just launched today, but on the plus side the launch was a success with no hitches or complications to be reported.
This is great for a number of reasons, many of which are obvious (SPAAAAAAACE!), but I think one thing people haven’t noticed is the great big “In your face!” to congressmen who refuse to fund the space program for whatever ridiculous reasons (“Satan placed planets around us to test our faith” sounds like a good cover that a greedy, war-mongering politician might use), as well as the recent government shutdown that temporarily crippled NASA and other government agencies. On that note, a good message to extract from these events is that science and human progress will remain undeterred, and that the sky isn’t even our limit: it’s just our first stop on our way to the stars and beyond.
You can read more about MAVEN here on NASA’s website, or follow the various Twitter accounts documenting the satellite’s progress.
Y’all take care now.