"You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago. Is it possible that there was a civilization on Mars thousands of years ago?”
With that question to a panel of NASA experts testifying before his committee about the Mars Rover 2020 and Europa Clipper projects, US Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), vice chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee and a member of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee since 1989, opened a big can of sandworms.
Kenneth Farley, a professor of geochemistry at California Institute of Technology and member of the Mars 2020 project, clarified that the evidence is that Mars was different ‘billions’ of years ago, then responded that there was no evidence that he was aware of of a civilization on the Red Planet thousands of years ago.
Rohrabacher then stuck his hand deep into the can of sandworms and pulled out a big wriggler.
“Would you rule that out? See, there's some people... Well, anyway.”
“There’s some people …” Really, Congressman Rohrabacher? You’ve been on the space subcommittee since 1989 (chairman from 1997 to 2005) and your source is ‘some people’? Even Tom DeLonge and John Podesta name names. Could these ‘people’ by any chance be some of the same ‘people’ who forced NASA to address and deny a claim that it’s running child slave labor camps on Mars?
And then you attempt to stuff the sandworm back into the can with “Well, anyway”? What have you been doing on this subcommittee for the past 28 years … doodling pictures of Jane Jetson?
The hearing was part of the ongoing requirement to justify and secure funding for the projects. Mars 2020 is the Mars rover mission scheduled to launch in 2020 to investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars that is, as Kenneth Farley pointed out, probably about 3 billion years old. The Europa Clipper will orbit Jupiter in a position that allows it to do close flybys of its moon, Europa.
One of Rohrabacher’s claims to fame while on the space committee is his introduction in 2007 of a bill that would direct NASA to develop a strategy "for deflecting and mitigating potentially hazardous near-Earth objects" – a good idea. On the other hand, in a hearing that same year on climate change, he said that previous planetary warming cycles have been caused by "dinosaur flatulence." Did the same ‘some people’ tell him that one too?
While it’s risky to trust science in the hands of businesses without any regulations, it’s even more dangerous to trust science in the hands of politicians without any sense. Will we ever be able to let science be science?