Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Breaking news: Evidence of water found on Mars!

Yes, it's true. Once again those little energizer-bunny rovers have made news because once again one of them has discovered evidence of water in Mars' past.

Doesn't it seem like every few months we find new and exciting evidence of water on Mars? Is anybody else impressed by how they can continue to make the same headline newsworthy over and over again?

Okay, in all seriousness, what is truly impressive to me is that they continue to make new discoveries after wandering around for so long. I think that really says something about the complexity of Mars, not to mention the complexity of the rovers.

The cynic in me read this headline and thought that the rover teams are sending out press releases for some minor thing in an attempt to stay in the news and stay relevant and not have their extended mission funding cut and their rovers turned off. But actually, this looks to be a genuine find.

What the rover found was a patch of soil that is 90% silica - something you just can't do without a whole lot of water. It was discovered by the aging rover Spirit, who has a broken wheel that won't rotate anymore, and so it leaves a deep trench as it drags through the soil, which is what exposed the silica-rich stuff (in fact several of it's recent discoveries have been made this way).

The patch of soil has been named "Gertrude Weise," after a player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Seriously, they named a patch of soil after some random baseball player. I looked her up, she wasn't even a particularly famous AAGPBL player (by which I mean that there was no character based on her in A League of Their Own), and she died last year, so she will never even know about the great honor bestowed upon her.

Like many in the planetary community, I dream of one day having something in the solar system named after me, an asteroid or a crater, but a patch of soil? meh.

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