Anniversary Post: MAVEN

MAVENOn this day in 2013, the MAVEN space probe was launch from Earth. MAVEN stands for “Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission.” It entered into orbit around Mars on 22 September 2014. It was designed to study the evolution of Mars’ atmosphere over time. And less than two weeks ago, NASA announced, NASA Mission Reveals Speed of Solar Wind Stripping Martian Atmosphere.

It was discovered that the Martian atmosphere is significantly eroded during solar storms. This indicates that Mars used to have a much thicker carbon dioxide atmosphere that kept the planet much warmer than it now is — warm enough for liquid water to exist on the surface. The change from this warm Mars to the cold Mars of today apparently took place roughly four billion years ago.

I find this frustrating. I wish I were still associated with a college. I have questions. Did Earth’s larger magnetic field shield it from this effect? Is there a reason why this effect would be most important with carbon dioxide or is it just that the Martian atmosphere is primarily composed of the gas? Would the same thing have happened if the atmosphere had been mostly nitrogen or oxygen?

Regardless, this is fascinating stuff. And I don’t remember hearing a bunch of news coverage about this last week. It goes along with something I say often: our science reporting is terrible. Our political reporting is terrible. It seems that journalism is terrible with regard to anything I know a bit about. So I think we can conclude from this that journalism is terrible regarding everything. That’s not to say that all of journalism is bad or that all reporters suck. But it does indicate that there is something wrong with the industry. And I’m afraid I know what it is: the profit motive. It needs to be publicly supported. That is as important to democracy as elections.

3 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: MAVEN

  1. The press used to be better before Bork and Reagan killed the fairness doctrine. Now the news is just entertainment, and all of it controlled by a few large media corporations.
    Your musing about the effects of the solar wind on Mars reminds me of the idea of geo engineering as an anti climate change device. I disagree with those who say we should not research this for two reasons. First, they argue that it will distract us from transitioning off a carbon economy. We will get off a carbon economy when Exon gets a RICO conviction, or when Miami goes underwater. Second, when the disaster after Miami going underwater happens, people are going to start trying geo engineering. I have read about things that sound far more ham fisted than dumping sulfur aerosols into the atmosphere to deflect sunlight. We might as well have an intelligent plan for how to go about this.

    • Have you met humans? We are not necessarily the brightest as a species. Plus, is it bad that Miami goes underwater? As long as everyone manages to swim away, I don’t know if it is bad for sharks to now have resort style living.

      In seriousness though-it will take a major disaster that afflicts the comfortable repeatedly before they will do anything about it. Hurricane Sandy was not sufficient and no one expects anything different from Florida being hit by hurricanes. So it will take a yearly Hurricane Sandy before anything gets done.

    • Geoengineering is fine. The problem is that there may be unforeseen problems. Also: conservatives always claim that technology will save us. They have an “all of the above” strategy for energy, but not for fixing problems. It is: (1) we create a problem; (2) a miracle occurs; and (3) we solve the problem. These are people, after all, who don’t want to invest in any kind of technology that might hurt the oil companies. Clearly, solar is our solution. And if we had a truly efficient market, fossil fuels would be so expensive we wouldn’t be using it. I like the idea of RICO laws. But we will stop drilling for oil when the oil companies stop making money from it. We got rid of CFCs because the patents had run out on them, not because the world actually took on the chemical companies. It’s sad.

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