is there Life on Mars?

…in David Bowie’s discography? Definitely yes.

…as viewed on images from the Curiosity rover? No.

The internet is increasingly abuzz with supposed UFOs, iguanas, and people sitting on the surface of Mars. There’s a lot of them now.

The good news is, I guess, Curiosity (originally the “Mars Science Laboratory”) hasn’t been moving much lately, so it should still be within a few hundred feet of everything they were looking at this August. Which means they could take another look at the spaceship and one of the levitating rocks right now!

And if they do spot it again, you can see it too, because like all NASA planetary missions, all the raw images are available online: http://mars.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/

Now, to me, that alien spaceship they claim to see looks a lot more like an SR-71 Blackbird with a shortened fuselage, and a lot MORE like a haphazard pile of shale or whatever that rock is that cleaves into flat sheets (not a geologist, nor do I play one on TV). I took a look at the raw images from Sol 1087 and… yeah, the rover is in a location with a lot of those rocks. It’s actually surprising to me that we don’t see MORE odd spaceship-like formations. Or something that looks like a staircase, or the Sydney Opera House. Although I did spot an alien egg from Aliens.

The real culprit here, as hundreds of other websites will tell you, is paradoelia: the human brain has evolved to become an incredible pattern-matching machine. We see patterns EVERYWHERE, even when they’re not actually there. If we didn’t, TV would just be flashing lights on a screen.

What we DO know is that Mars did have water at one point; a whole ocean of it, and that possibly persisted for billions of years; Mars still has water in the form of ice at its poles. It still has winds, weather, and seasons. And its atmosphere, though thinner than what you’d find on top of Everest, does reach (at its highest point) temperatures found on Earth. There have been several suggestions that water has flowed (in spurts, before evaporating) at times within the last decade, thanks to suddenly-appearing avalanches on the sides of cliffs. Heck, even the pictures taken by the rovers look like places in the American southwest taken through a rose-tinted filter. Mars is the closest thing we’ve found to a duplicate of Earth. But the only flying saucers on Mars are the ones we’ve sent there. The rest is just rocks and sand.

Point is, all the signs of life UFOologists are seeing are just rocks. I’m sure NASA would love it if they weren’t, because front and center in its own mission synopsis is “Is there life on Mars?”. The difference is, NASA is looking for life in new and different ways, while the UFO people are trying to reinterpret all kinds of things we’ve already seen as signs of life.

Mars, with Curiosity's UHF antenna.
Mars. Also, Curiosity’s UHF antenna in the foreground.
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One Comment Add yours

  1. But of course these things the ufologists see are real. NASA is part of the conspiracy so of course they deny them! ☺ I always pity those who think that way because all they are doing is turning amazing and exotic discoveries into mundane and often rather cliched objects, which to my mind is a very unimaginative way of looking at the universe.

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