Thought for the Month

What with all the attention that the planet Mars has been getting in the news recently, I thought that I would say a few words about it here.

I personally do not look up into the sky very often these days, when I am outdoors. But just recently I have been, thanks to the lunar eclipse and to Comet Hale-Bopp. A view of Saturn that I got a few months ago, through a telescope someone had out on one of the buttes in Eugene, Oregon, really reminded me that when we speak of Saturn, or Mars, we are speaking of an actual ball of gas or rock, hanging out there in space -- not just something that you see on TV or read about in science fiction novels.

It's really there. Humans could go there. With the right equipment, I could go there. A cold trip, without a friendly reception committee at the other end.

And if I went to Mars, what would I see? A lot of land. Even though Earth is bigger than Mars, the Earth has so much ocean that it only has about as much exposed land surface as Mars does. And many places on Mars resemble something that you could find on Earth, say on the barren slopes of a lava-strewn volcano in Hawaii. Hawaii certainly has a nice familiar, homey, Terran sound to me.

Perhaps our reception from our neighbor Mars would not be so unfriendly after all.

One of the many places where you can find out more about Mars, or the Solar System in general, is the Los Alamos National Laboratories Views of the Solar System page, from which I obtained the picture that the top of this document links to.