Red Planet Cattle Drive

 

spirit_roverScientists expect to find methane on Mars, and Curiosity’s onboard lab will be testing for it. The important issues are how much is there,and how variable is the supply. Variability might show the gas has a biological origin.

Preliminary estimates of Martian methane have already been made using astronomical observations. Malynda Chizek, an astronomy graduate student at New Mexico State University, spoke about this last week at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting.

Detecting methane on Mars could lead to evidence of life, as roughly 95 percent of the methane in Earth’s atmosphere is a product of biology, Chizek said. In her recent talk at the DPS meeting, she undescored the volume and significance of methane on Mars by using a very Earthly creature that produces the gas: cows.

So how many cows would be required to equal the amount of methane that scientists have observed on Mars?

“Depending on which observations I am looking at, that number is close to 5 million cows, or roughly 200,000 tons of methane production per year,” Chizek reported.

Update 10/25/2012: John King Tarpinian found a great picture which I want to use, although it’s of another rover, Spirit.

Altcarmageddon

AltCar Expo 2012, an exposition of the future of renewable energy and alternative transportation, takes place Friday and Saturday, September 28-29 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The event is free.

Leading sf writers and scientists will be there Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. for “Mars and the Heart of Humanity: Ray Bradbury’s Million-Year Picnic,” a panel devoted to remembering Ray and discussing his favorite planet, Mars, “as it’s been imagined in the past, as it’s being discovered today and as it might eventually become.”

Appearing are Greg Bear, Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of over 40 books, including Hull Zero Three, Howard V. Hendrix, sf novelist, scholar and editor of Visions of Mars and The Mars Encyclopedia, and Charles Baker, Cruise, Entry, Decent and Landing Lead Mission Planner for JPL’s Curiosity Rover. Bradbury friend Bill Goodwin will moderate.

Of course, good luck getting there on Saturday if you’re not coming from a location west of the 405 freeway. Carmageddon II begins midnight Saturday, and for the next 48 hours they’re shutting down 10 miles of freeway on that side of LA to facilitate removal of a bridge in the Mulholland Pass.

People won’t need alternate cars that day, they’ll need alternate transporter booths.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

For Ray on His 92nd Birthday

A look back at Bradbury Landing.

Ray Bradbury would have been 92 today, August 22, and NASA has not forgotten. The space agency celebrated by announcing it has given his name to the site on Mars where its rover Curosity first came to rest — Bradbury Landing.

“This was not a difficult choice for the science team,” said Michael Meyer, NASA program scientist for Curiosity. “Many of us and millions of other readers were inspired in our lives by stories Ray Bradbury wrote to dream of the possibility of life on Mars.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]