While Elon Musk continues with his plans to colonize Mars with up to a million Earthlings, some of his fellow Earthlings continue their own quests to prove that humans or other intelligent species have already been there, done that, left something behind to prove it. Three cases in point have popped up in the past few weeks as the Internet passed around photos of what appear to be a tree stump, a stone circle and some sort of flyable vehicle on the surface of the Red Planet. Is Elon too late?
Let’s start with the tree stump. It appears in an image taken by the Mastcam onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity on Sol 1647 (2017-03-25 07:19:49 UTC). The two-camera system is taking panoramic color images of Martian landscape, rocks, and soils and it got all three in this photo. While it definitely looks like a tree stump, it also looks like a rock that resembles a tree stump. Unfortunately, there’s no other stumps nearby that would indicate a former forest. How did one little stump manage to survive the harsh Martian conditions, let alone live with so little water? The consensus until more stumps are found is ‘rock’.
Speaking of rocks, it seems one of Earth’s most famous human-arranged stone formations has a twin on Mars. OK, not a twin but a possible distant relative. Really distant. What do these circles have in common? Both are round (although Mars Henge – cute name – is not a ‘perfect’ circle as many describe it) and both are made of stones. While Stonehenge was obviously stacked by someone, Mars Henge looks like a natural formation, possibly an impact crater or erosion from that water Mars once had in greater abundance. But a place where beings worshiped, watched the stars or danced? Not at this henge.
Lastly, we come to the … thing. It appears in an image taken by the Left Panoramic Camera Non-linearized Full frame EDR on Sol 348 of Opportunity’s mission to Meridiani Planum at approximately 12:45:41 Mars local solar time on March 17, 2017. the object looks metallic and is shaped somewhat like a spaceship or a hovercraft or a Star Wars land speeder if you squint and imagine really hard. If it’s a vehicle, there don’t appear to be any tracks or impact marks or footprints from the driver. While some posters claim the photograph mysteriously disappeared from NASA’s online collection. It’s still there. One interesting theory is that the object is part of Opportunity itself – possibly a piece of its heat shield. That sounds plausible, since it landed in Meridiani Planum in 2004. However, wouldn’t a 13-year-old chuck of metal on the Martian ground be covered with dust?
Las Vegas money is on heat shield chunk but that could change if the rover roved over to it for a closer look. What are the odds of THAT happening? Elon?