On 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.